Hemp

RSS Feed for this category

Hemp Legalization Amendment Introduced for Farm Bill

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Monday introduced an amendment to the omnibus farm bill to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, the Huffington Post reported. The move picked up momentum the next day, when Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) said he would support, the Huffington Post reported separately.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.com)
Vote Hemp, a hemp industry group, has been urging supporters to lobby senators to add and support the amendment. There is an opening on the farm bill this year because it failed to pass last year.

"For me, what's important is that people see, particularly in our state, there's someone buying it at Costco in Oregon," Wyden told the Post. "I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it."

Wyden wasn't alone. The bipartisan amendment is cosponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

On Tuesday, Sen. Leahy told members of the farm advocacy group Rural Vermont he would support the amendment, and a Leahy aide confirmed his support to the Post.

"We are optimistic that the hemp amendment to the farm bill will pass and be attached," Tom Murphy, the national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp, told the Post. "We just received word from Rural Vermont that Sen. Patrick Leahy will support the amendment."

This week's moves come after McConnell tried and failed last week to get the amendment added to the farm bill. Now, momentum appears to be mounting.

Washington, DC
United States

Congressman Predicts Current Congress Will Legalize Hemp

Earl Blumenauer at Brookings marijuana legalization forum, April 2013
I attended a forum on marijuana legalization at The Brookings Institution Monday, where Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), one of a handful of Congressional champions of marijuana law reform, was one of the speakers. Along with his general optimism for where the issue is going, Blumenauer predicted that the current Congress -- #113, in office this year and next -- will legalize hemp growing.

That may be a less bold prediction than in the past -- with the highest-ranking Republican senator supporting hemp now, Mitch McConnell, it should be more likely -- but it's still a fairly bold prediction, when one thinks about just how long Congress has refused to do anything for this utterly no-brainer of an issue. One of Blumenauer's reasons was that a House bill to legalize hemp growing, H.R. 525, also is being sponsored by a Kentucky Republican, Thomas Massie.

You heard it here first. (Unless you also watched the Brookings forum.)

Kentucky Legislature Passes Industrial Hemp Bill

The Kentucky legislature approved an industrial hemp bill Wednesday in the final hour of the session, but only after last-minute negotiations brought it back from the dead. Whether Gov. Steve Beshear (D) will sign it remains to be seen.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.org)
]The bill, Senate Bill 50, would allow for industrial hemp production in Kentucky, if the federal government allows it, which it currently doesn't. It keeps the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which was created by earlier legislation, in the state Department of Agriculture and gives the University of Kentucky authority over hemp research.

Fighting over whether to shift the commission as well to the University of Kentucky nearly derailed the bill. The bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) and its chief advocate, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, had to fend off efforts by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) to shift the commission to the university.

Once agreement had been reached, the bill passed the House on an 88-4 vote, and the Senate then approved the compromise language on a 35-1 vote.

The bill now goes to Gov. Beshear, who has said he shares concerns aired by the Kentucky State Police, who opposed it on the grounds that it could make enforcing the marijuana laws more difficult. Beshear has not said whether he will veto the bill or sign it into law.

The bill was also supported by the Bluegrass State's two Republican US senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell. McConnell is also an original sponsor of this year's federal hemp bill, Senate Bill 359.

According to the industry group Vote Hemp, eight states have already passed laws removing barriers to hemp production, while others have passed bills establishing commissions or research activities or passed resolutions endorsing industrial hemp. Fifteen states have seen hemp bills introduced this year.

Frankfort, KY
United States

Vermont Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed

Vermont has become the latest state to see a marijuana legalization bill filed this year. House Bill 499, "An Act Relating to Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana," was introduced to the House and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The bill is sponsored by Reps. Susan Davis (P-Washington), David Deen (D-Westminster), James Masland (D-Thetford), William Stevens (I-Shoreham) and Teo Zagar (D-Barnard).

It would allow people 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to three plants. The bill also legalizes the possession of pot paraphernalia. It would also "create a regulatory structure for the wholesale and retail sale of marijuana that includes licensing and oversight by the Department of Liquor Control." The bill envisages a $50 per ounce excise tax on commercial marijuana sales.

People who possess more than two ounces or three plants or who sell marijuana outside regulated commercial channels would still be subject to criminal penalties.

And the bill would allow industrial hemp production in accordance with existing state law "regardless of whether federal regulations have been adopted."

Colorado and Washington freed the weed in November, and marijuana legalization bills have been or will be introduced this year in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Oregon. A legalization bill died earlier this year in Hawaii, and one died this week in New Hampshire, but another New Hampshire legalization bill is still alive.

Montpelier, VT
United States

Missouri Marijuana, Hemp Bills Filed

Members of the Missouri legislature have introduced three different marijuana law reform bills this month -- one to decriminalize possession; one to expunge misdemeanor offenses, including possession, from the record after five years; and one to legalize industrial hemp.

Rep. Rory Ellinger (D-University City) and two cosponsors introduced the decriminalization bill, House Bill 512, at a press conference earlier this month. The bill would make the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana or paraphernalia punishable only by a fine, but it would still be a criminal offense -- a misdemeanor -- instead of a civil infraction. The bill would also encourage judges to use "suspended imposition of sentence," under which the person is not convicted and, if he successfully completes a probationary period, there is no longer any public record of the matter.

Perhaps decriminalization is not quite the right word."Depenalization" would be more correct.

"Every year, nearly 20,000 Missourians are put in chains and then relegated to second-class citizenship by a criminal record for the possession of small amounts of marijuana," said John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, who addressed the press conference. "This policy costs Missouri taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year, but does nothing to decrease marijuana use or eliminate the harms associated with the black market. There are no other proposals before our legislators that can do so much good so easily."

At the same press conference, Rep. Ellinger also introduced the expungement bill, House Bill 511. Under current Missouri law, only a very few specified offenses can be expunged. This bill would allow expungement for all misdemeanor offenses, including marijuana and paraphernalia offenses, except for violent or sex offenses.

"Although these measures may seem like long shots, one year ago, no one would have predicted that the Republican majority in both houses would reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine or reduce the term of probation in most felony drug cases by one half, especially during an election year," said Dan Viets, a veteran attorney with Show-Me Cannabis Regulation. "Those reforms passed with bipartisan support, and these bills can too. That means we will do everything we can to make it happen in 2013."

And this week, Sen. Jason Holsman (D-South Kansas City) introduced an industrial hemp bill, Senate Bill 358. It would exempt industrial hemp -- defined as containing less than 1% THC -- from the state's controlled substances act and allow anyone not convicted of a drug-related crime to grow it. An identical bill was introduced in the House last year, but didn't move.

After the snow melts in Missouri, legislators will be getting back to work. It would be nice if the Show Me State could show the rest of us the way forward.

Jefferson City, MO
United States

Bipartisan Hemp, Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress [FEATURE]

It's a marijuana policy trifecta on Capitol Hill now: recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, and hemp. Earlier this month, reformist House members filed bills to end federal pot prohibition and tax the trade and last week to legalize hemp. Now, some of those same legislators -- joined by more -- have filed bills that would protect medical marijuana patients and providers and some senators have filed their companion bill to legalize industrial hemp.

Kentucky Republicans McConnell and Paul are supporting hemp legislation in the Senate
Phase II took place Thursday, when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), sponsor of the above-mentioned marijuana tax bill, rolled out House Resolution 689, the States' Medical Marijuana Protection Act; Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced House Resolution 710, the Truth in Trials Act; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and three co-sponsors filed the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, the companion to House Resolution 525.

Blumenauer's bill would grant federal recognition to the use of medical marijuana and remove it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Regulating medical marijuana would be left to the states, and people complying with state medical marijuana laws would be exempt from federal arrest and prosecution.

It was introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship, including Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Michael Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA) ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

"The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act will allow medical marijuana patients and businesses -- who are complying with state law -- the ability to access and distribute marijuana free from federal interference," Blumenauer said. "Nineteen jurisdictions have passed laws recognizing the importance of providing access to medical marijuana for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on it. It is time for the federal government to respect these decisions, and stop inhibiting safe access."

"There is a plethora of scientific evidence establishing marijuana’s medical safety and efficacy and public polling for marijuana law reform is skyrocketing," said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "However, when it comes to marijuana and the federal government, old fashioned politics routinely trumps modern science. The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act offers us hope we will see significant change with its passage. Congress should move swiftly to acknowledge what patients, doctors, researchers and scientists have been telling us for years: marijuana has therapeutic and medicinal benefits," said Tyler.

Farr's Truth in Trials Act is an attempt to restore fairness in federal medical marijuana prosecutions. Because the federal government refuses to recognize marijuana as anything other than a proscribed controlled substance, medical marijuana defendants and their attorneys are barred from even mentioning it or their state laws allowing its use in federal court. That has repeatedly resulted in state law-abiding medical marijuana growers and providers being convicted as drug dealers in federal courts, and sentenced accordingly.

Similar legislation has been introduced in previous years, but made little progress. Now, however, as the Obama administration keeps up the pressure on medical marijuana providers and in the wake of November's election results, supporters hope the bill can gain some traction.

This year's bill is cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jared Polis (D-Co), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

"The federal government for too long has denied due process to defendants who can demonstrate that they were using medical marijuana legally under local or state law," Farr said. "This bill would ensure that all the evidence is heard in a case and not just the evidence that favors conviction."

"Congress has the opportunity to establish a sensible public health policy on medical marijuana, and do what the Obama Administration has been afraid or unwilling to do," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has been working with members of Congress to advance this legislation. "Patient advocates intend to push Congress to take heed of the abundant scientific evidence showing marijuana's medical value, and act in accordance with the overwhelming popular support this issue receives."

ASA is holding its first ever National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference this month in Washington, in part to do a big lobbying push for the bills. Attendees will convene in Washington on Friday, with the four-day conference culminating with a press conference and lobby day on Capitol Hill on Monday.

And then there was hemp. With Sen. Wyden's introduction of a Senate bill, there are now hemp bills in both houses. In addition to Wyden and Democratic and fellow Oregonian Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), the Senate hemp bill has the support of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senate party leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both of whom have also endorsed hemp legislation back home in Kentucky.

"I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul and Senate colleagues, that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide," McConnell said. "During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky's economy and to our farmers and their families."

"The Industrial Hemp Farming Act paves the way to creating jobs across the country -- from Kentucky to Oregon and everywhere else," Paul said. "Allowing American farmers to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our states' economies and bring much-needed jobs in the agriculture community."

The House version of the bill was introduced earlier by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and has 28 cosponsors: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), John Campbell (R-CA), Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Richard Hanna (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Ted Yoho (R-FL).

The hemp bills would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. Specifically, the bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Eight states, including Oregon, have already passed bills providing for legal hemp production, but action in those states is on hold because the DEA refuses to recognize any difference between hemp and marijuana. That means US hemp product manufacturers must import hemp from countries that do recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana.

"Unfortunately, there are some dumb regulations that are hurting economic growth and job creation, and the ban on growing industrial hemp is certainly among them," Wyden said. "The opportunities for American farmers and businesses are obvious here. It's time to boost revenues for farmers and reduce the costs for the businesses around the country that use hemp."

Congress now has a full-blown marijuana agenda on its plate, from pot legalization to industrial hemp to medical marijuana, if it chooses to address it. And, given the overlapping cosponsorships on the various bills, it now appears to have developed a cannabis caucus. We've already come a long way from the days when it was all up to Barney Frank and Ron Paul, and they've just been gone a few weeks.

Washington, DC
United States

Mitch McConnell Endorses Kentucky Hemp Bill

In a statement last Thursday, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the minority leader in the US Senate, endorsed pending legislation in his home state that seeks to reintroduce industrial hemp cultivation there. The bill already has the support of the state's other US senator, Rand Paul, and Agricultural Commissioner James Comer, who were instrumental in bringing McConnell on board.

Is it sunrise for industrial hemp in Kentucky? (votehemp.org)
"After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky's farm families and economy," McConnell said. "The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me."

But McConnell first had to be reassured that industrial hemp wouldn't somehow turn into recreational marijuana. Comer apparently managed the trick.

"Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement's marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use," McConnell said.

In a statement of his own last Thursday, Comer expressed enormous gratitude for McConnell's support.

"When the most powerful Republican in the country calls to discuss your issue, that's a good day on the job," Comer said. "Leader McConnell's support adds immeasurable strength to our efforts to bring good jobs to Kentucky."

The hemp bill, Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville), would direct the state Agriculture Department to create a program for licensing industrial hemp producers, but would not go into effect until there is a change in federal law, which bans the production -- but not the importation -- of industrial hemp.

In addition to both US senators, the bill has also garnered the support of two of the state's six US representatives, US Reps. John Yarmuth (D) and Thomas Massie (R). The two congressmen, Sen. Paul, and Commissioner Comer will all testify in favor of the bill.

"Our federal delegation is showing tremendous leadership," Comer said. "They recognize this is not a partisan issue. It's about jobs. And we will continue to push forward to make sure Kentucky is first in line for them."

State legislative leaders are also firmly backing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) joined Sen. Hornback in convincing the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to endorse the bill. It did so Wednesday.

The bill gets a hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee on February 11.

Frankfort, KY
United States

Oregon's Measure 80 Faces an Uphill Battle [FEATURE]

Of the three marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot this year, Oregon's Measure 80, also known as the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, is the most radical. For a variety of reasons it also looks to be the least likely to win. In the only recent poll, done last month by SurveyUSA, Measure 80 was trailing by a margin of 37% to 41%, with a large undecided vote of 22%. While pollsters said the results meant the race was "could go either way" and campaign proponents pointed to the high number of undecideds, any initiative polling less than 50% this close to election day is in trouble.

Measure 80 aims to reassure parents. (vote80.org)
That's too bad, because Measure 80 would repeal marijuana prohibition in Oregon outright; allow personal possession and cultivation by adults 21 and over; create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to tax, regulate, and license commercial marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales; and explicitly allow for industrial hemp production.

Unlike Washington's I-502, Measure 80 does not establish a per se drugged driving standard for marijuana; instead, it relies on the state's existing drugged driving laws. It does create criminal penalties for commercial cultivation without a license, selling Oregon marijuana outside the state, and providing it to minors.

Medical marijuana entrepreneur and long-time hemp and legalization activist Paul Stanford relied primarily on his personal wealth to finance the signature gathering campaign for the initiative, but appears to have largely emptied his pockets doing so, and the Yes on 80 campaign has virtually no money in the bank. A political action committee formed to help Measure 80 pass, Oregonians for Law Reform, has also done some fundraising, but so far has raised only a few thousand dollars.

"We think we can squeak by and make some history," said Vote 80 campaign manager Roy Kaufmann. "We've done this before -- we repealed alcohol Prohibition in 1932, and when we talk about the damage Prohibition did to our country, that becomes a very useful argument. We only qualified for the ballot in July, and the electorate is pretty evenly split right now, with a lot of undecideds. We think we can reach the undecided voters."

"It's a toss-up according to the latest poll," said Stanford. "That's not a good place to be at this point in the campaign," he conceded, "but we still have a large number of undecideds, and we just need to get the word out about how our initiative will enhance public safety, provide funding for new technologies and impairment studies, and set up a series of controls to keep it from going to kids and going out of state."

Stanford said the campaign would have to rely on "earned media," or, in other words, depend on generating news stories in the state's mass media, because it doesn't have the money for expensive paid media campaigns. As of about a week ago, the campaign reported having only $1,800 in the bank.

Oregonians for Law Reform has raised about $4,000 for the campaign so far, said spokesman Sam Chapman.

"We're going to be using the money for advertising, phone banking, and things like stickers, and we're also mobilizing students to reach out to their communities," said the former University of Oregon Students for Sensible Policy chapter president. "The majority of voters in Oregon just aren't aware this is even on the ballot -- if we can get to them before they get all the negative slant from the media, we have a good chance to turn out a lot of votes, especially students, since they don't need much persuading."

While Oregonians for Law Reform could undertake broader criminal justice work in the future, it was created primarily as a vehicle for passing Measure 80, Chapman said.

"We started the PAC on September 15 with a two-fold purpose: to raise money for Measure 80 and to act as an independent complementary group to the measure and the campaign," he said. "When we started, we hoped we could open the door back up for large outside donors, but it looks like they've settled on Washington and Colorado. We recognize that, and are trying to do a grassroots campaign."

Anti-Measure 80 billboard paid for by the Drug Free America Foundation (Paul Stanford)
Unlike the Colorado and Washington initiatives, Measure 80 has not managed to attract the big money funders, such as Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance, the Drug Policy Alliance lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action Network, or the Marijuana Policy Project. Those groups have poured millions of dollars into the other initiatives, but not Oregon. 

MPP communications director Morgan Fox wouldn't directly address Oregon, but did explain what made the group comfortable putting money into the Colorado effort.

"Several things made the state an attractive one in which to attempt a ballot initiative," Fox said. "First, the polling looked good for the past couple of years and didn't show any signs of fluctuating by large degrees. Second, there is already a thriving medical marijuana industry and regulatory structure in place that provide an example similar to how the state will look after the passage of Amendment 64, making it much easier to convince unsure voters and make the arguments in favor more concrete. Third, there was a well-established activist community in the state that was effective, organized, and eager to move forward. This last part is very important, since most ballot initiatives are truly the product of grassroots local activists within a state who put together a plan that gets the attention of national organizations that are trying to determine how to best spend their all-too-limited resources."

"Both of the other initiatives were conceived, drafted, polled, and then put on the ballot by organizations that already had the money," said Stanford.

"The big funders saw Colorado and Washington pop up real fast," said Chapman, "and organizers made a lot of compromises in Colorado and Washington in order to poll higher and reach out to certain demographics, like the drugged driving provision in Washington -- that was tossing a bone to law enforcement and the scared mom demographic. Measure 80 is arguably for more progressive personal freedoms than either Colorado or Washington."

If Measure 80 isn't garnering much financial support, at least it isn't seeing a whole lot of organized opposition, either. While local law enforcement and conservative newspaper editorial boards have come out against it, the most significant opposition presence has been the appearance of some much-derided billboards paid for by the Florida-based Drug Free America Foundation.

 As the clock ticks down, Stanford is putting a brave face on things. "We have a shot; there's still a chance we can win," he said. "I'm still optimistic that all three states can pass marijuana reform initiatives and basically legalize personal sale and possession. That would be for the drug war what the falling of the Berlin Wall was for the Cold War."

Even if Measure 80 doesn't win, it at least has to not be a wipe-out, Chapman said.

"If we get under 40%, there will be blowback," he predicted. "The big funders won't come back to Oregon for a long time, and we're likely to be playing damage control in the legislature for the next four years. This could also hurt our medical system. There are raids going on, and we could see legislators backed by law enforcement saying we couldn't get our act together and now let's repeal some stuff."

Oregon votes entirely by mail. Voters will receive their ballot beginning next week. If Measure 80 is going to win over those undecideds and eke out a victory, it has to be getting to them right now.

OR
United States

Colorado's Amendment 64 Heads for the Home Stretch [FEATURE]

With only a few weeks left until election day, Colorado's Amendment 64 tax and regulate marijuana initiative is well-positioned to win on November 6, and its supporters are doing everything they can to ensure it does. Opponents are gearing up as well, and the weeks leading up to the election are going to be critical.

Amendment 64 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in an enclosed locked space. It also allows for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. And it would create a state-regulated marijuana cultivation, processing, and distribution system, including retail sales.

If the state fails to regulate marijuana commerce, localities could issue licenses. Localities would also have the right to ban marijuana businesses, either through their elected officials or via citizen-initiated ballot measures.  

If Amendment 64 passes, the legislature would be charged with enacting an excise tax of up to 15% on wholesale sales, with the first $40 million of revenue raised annually directed to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. In keeping with the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), such a tax increase would have to be approved by voters.

Amendment 64 does not change existing medical marijuana laws, but it does exempt medical marijuana from the proposed excise tax. For current patients, passage of Amendment 64 would enhance their privacy because no registration would be required -- just ID proving adulthood.

Amendment 64 does not increase or add penalties for any current pot law violations, nor does it change existing driving while impaired laws (although a bill reintroduced this year once again seeks to impose a per se DUID standard.)

The initiative's provisions appear to be broadly popular. According to the latest poll, released Saturday by SurveyUSA for the Denver Post, Amendment 64 is leading with 51%, with 40% opposed and 8% undecided.

While in line with other recent polls, the SurveyUSA/Denver Post poll marks the first time in recent months that support for the initiative has broken 50% except for an outlier June Rasmussen poll that had support at 61%. The Talking Points Memo's PollTracker Average, which includes this latest poll, currently shows 49.7% for Amendment 64, with 39.3% opposed.

That 10-point lead in the polls has initiative backers pleased, but not complacent.

"There has certainly been a nice positive trend in the past few polls, but we are not letting up in our efforts to build support," said Mason Tvert of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is leading the Amendment 64 effort.

"We've got a good feeling, but at the same time, we're redoubling our efforts to push this over the end line," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado, who is part of the campaign. "We haven't seen a tax and regulate measure pass anywhere yet. It's a heavy lift, but we're confident."

"It's looking good overall, the polling is good, and we're starting to make some hay within the progressive community," said Art Way, the Colorado point man for the Drug Policy Alliance's lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action Network.

The campaign has sufficient financial backing to go the distance, although it is of course always looking for more. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the main, but not the only funding mechanism, for the campaign, has taken in nearly a million dollars so far, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Related campaign committees have raised another $50,000 or so.

"We've seen a whole lot of support from around the state and the country and to see that continuing toward the election," said Tvert. "It's looking like it will come down to the wire, so late contributions will have a bigger impact than ever before."

With only $87,000 in the bank rank now, the campaign coffers may appear relatively bare, but that's deceiving, said Vicente.

"We've placed about $800,000 worth of ads that will air in October, and we bought that space months in advance because it's cheaper," he explained. "There are ungodly sums of presidential campaign money coming in now."

The only organized opposition so far, Smart Colorado, by contrast has raised only about $162,000, the bulk of it from long-time drug war zealot Mel Sembler of the Drug-Free America Foundation. And it has limited itself to the occasional press release and responses to reporters' queries. Still, it has more money than it had in 2006, when a similar initiative lost with 41% of the vote.

"I've never seen the opposition have so much money," said Tvert. "In 2006, they came up with maybe $50,000. Regardless, the fact is that our opponents will rely on scare tactics and fear-mongering and will partner with law enforcement and the drug treatment industry, who benefit from maintaining the prohibition status quo."

But other opposition is emerging, with a battle for supporters raging on both sides. The opposition has picked up the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), as well as the endorsements of numerous sheriffs, prosecutors, and elected officials.

Still, Amendment 64 has been impressive on this count too, picking up endorsements from the state Democratic, Green, and Libertarian parties, the NAACP, local elected officials, the ACLU of Colorado, as well as the Gary Johnson campaign and the drug reform movement, among others.

"Government officials have been standing in the way of marijuana policy reform for more than 80 years, and the public has come to realize their opposition is not based on evidence so much as politics and the fear of change," Tvert said. "We've seen public support grow significantly in the past 15 years despite the fact that we still largely see elected officials opposed, and now we're seeing things like Gov. Hickenlooper being ripped into by newspaper editorials after he came out against. There was a time when papers like the Denver Post would have paid him kudos for standing up against this, but now, they criticize him for being hypocritical."

One area where the campaign doesn't have to worry too much is the marijuana and medical marijuana community. While there has been some grumbling in the ranks from those in search of the perfect initiative, unlike the "Stoners Against Prop 19" movement in California in 2010 or the internecine warfare in Washington state this year, the friendly fire in Colorado has been fairly muted.

"We occasionally hear people complaining, but the back and forth has been focused almost entirely between us and the no campaign," Tvert said. "By and large, the people who support ending marijuana prohibition in Colorado have come together to support this initiative."

"We're not worried about losing the base," agreed Vicente. "We went to great efforts to involve lots of stakeholders, including lots of dispensary owners and activists, when drafting the language and formulating the campaign plans. People feel bought in win our initiative; it appeals to all Coloradans, but to our base as well."

Another reason Colorado hasn't seen the circular firing squad that is taking place this year in Washington is that Amendment 64 doesn't include some of the controversial provisions included in the Washington initiative, said Vicente.

"There are some key differences with Washington," he pointed out. "We allow adults to home grow and we don't dictate a DUID level. By steering clear of those issues, we help maintain our more traditional base."

If the base appears secure, another key demographic is definitely in play, and it's an uphill struggle for the campaign. The polling throughout suggest that parents with children at home and especially mothers remain a weak spot. The campaign is acutely aware of that and has created another campaign organization, Moms and Dads for Marijuana Regulation, to address it.

"One of the most powerful ways that parents are becoming educated about the benefits of the tax and regulate system is conversation with other parents," said Betty Aldworth of Moms and Dads. "Moms and dads are starting to recognize that taking it out of unregulated market and putting it behind the counter where we can tax and regulate it is a better model. We're encouraging moms and dads to talk to other moms and dads. We've tapped a lot of parents to be spokespeople and will be continuing to educate about why marijuana is safer."

Parents who are open to the conversation can be brought along, Aldsworth said.

"Marijuana is universally available," she said, explaining what she tells concerned parents. "And our options here are to place it behind the counter where a responsible businessperson is checking ID or to leave it in the hand of criminals. When you talk to parents about that specific scenario, which is the reality of marijuana in the world today, they understand that we can do the same thing with marijuana that we did with alcohol, only now we have the advantage of having programs to start rapidly reducing youth access."

"We knew 18 months ago that the soccer moms would be a crucial demographic, and we still have an issue with that area," said Way. "That's why Betty Aldworth is working on that, but we're also making inroads with Women for Medical Marijuana, and the League of Women Voters will be having an event. We're making inroads, but it's not showing up in the polling so far."

"We find that people's fallback position is 'How will it affect my kids?' and we've been trying to engage in a public discussion about how regulating and moving it off the streets is a more effective way to reduce teen use than the failed policy of prohibition," said Vicente. "We've been doing billboards and some TV, as well as the face-to-face," he said.

The Amendment 64 campaign is poised, practiced, and ready to roll to victory in November. It has identified weak spots in its support and is working to bolster them. It's up nine or 10 points a little more than six weeks out, but knowing how previous initiative campaigns have played out, expect that margin to shrink as election day draws near. Victory is within reach, but this is going to be a nailbiter.

CO
United States

New Hemp Bill Introduced in US Senate

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The bill, if passed, would get around the DEA's refusal to differentiate hemp from marijuana and could result in American farmers being allowed to grow the industrial crop.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.org)
The bill, Senate Bill 3501, was introduced last week by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and cosponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). It would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make clear that hemp is not a drug, even though it is part of the cannabis family. Hemp has much lower levels of THC than marijuana grown for recreational or medicinal purposes.

The bill marks Wyden's second attempt this year to get hemp de-listed. He tried to offer an amendment to the farm bill the Senate passed in June to do just that, but the Senate leadership ruled the amendment was not germane.

"I firmly believe that American farmers should not be denied an opportunity to grow and sell a legitimate crop simply because it resembles an illegal one," Wyden said. "Raising this issue has sparked a growing awareness of exactly how ridiculous the US's ban on industrial hemp is. I'm confident that if grassroots support continues to grow and Members of Congress continue to hear from voters then common sense hemp legislation can move through Congress in the near future."

The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, another hemp bill, House Resolution 1831, which would also clarify that hemp is not marijuana for the purposes of the Controlled Substances Act, languishes in the Republican-controlled House.

Washington, DC
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School