Hemp

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Ron Paul: Hemp for Victory

Ron Paul supports the legalization of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis that provides an eco-friendly source of fiber and protein. Paul is a perennial author of hemp legalization bills, the latest of which is being promoted in May during the second-annual Hemp History Week. In this interview Josh Harkinson partially spoke with Paul about the benefits of hemp.
Publication/Source: 
Mother Jones (CA)
URL: 
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/03/ron-paul-hemp-victory

Leading Hemp Advocacy Groups Applaud Introduction of California Hemp Farming Bill SB 676 (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2011

CONTACT: Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671 or adam@mintwood.com

California Businesses and Farmers Await Passage of New Bill to Allow Commercial Farming of Industrial Hemp

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The leading hemp advocacy organizations Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association are applauding the introduction two weeks ago of SB 676 in support of hemp farming in the state of California. The bill clarifies that industrial hemp is separate and distinct from forms of Cannabis used to produce marijuana and if passed will allow commercial farming of industrial hemp, which occurred in the state up until shortly after World War II. Industrial hemp is the non-psychoactive, low-THC, oilseed and fiber varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp has absolutely no value as a recreational drug.

SB 676 was introduced on Friday, February 18th by state Senator Mark Leno. Senator Leno believes that hemp farming will help revitalize California's economy, "The time is long over due for California farmers to be allowed to grow this sustainable and profitable crop once again. The passage of SB 676 will create new jobs and economic opportunities for many farmers and manufacturers throughout the state."

A variety of products made from industrial hemp, including healthy food and natural body care products as well as eco-friendly clothing, are made in California. "There are over 50 member businesses of the Hemp Industries Association

(HIA) that make or sell hemp products in the state of California alone that could benefit from an in-state source of hemp seed, fiber and oil," says Eric Steenstra, Executive Director of the HIA. "Because of an outdated federal policy these businesses are forced to import millions of dollars of industrial hemp from Canada, China and Europe."

"Dr. Bronner's currently purchases twenty tons of hemp oil each year from Canada. We look forward to the day that we can meet our supply needs from hemp produced right here in our home state," says David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of Escondido.  

To date, 17 states have passed pro-hemp laws or resolutions, including the California Assembly in 1999, when it passed a resolution declaring that "the Legislature should consider action to revise the legal status of industrial hemp to allow for its growth in California as an agricultural and industrial crop."

SB 676 would only allow farmers to produce and enter into the marketplace the parts of the industrial hemp plant already legal to import under state and federal law: its seed, oil, fiber and woody core. "SB 676 would not conflict with federal law or interfere with the enforcement of marijuana laws," explains Patrick Goggin, California Legal Counsel for Vote Hemp.  

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) represents the interests of the hemp industry and encourages the research and development of new hemp products. Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for low-THC industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow this agricultural crop.  More information about hemp legislation and the crop's many uses may be found at www.VoteHemp.com and www.TheHIA.org.

Location: 
CA
United States

Call for Release of Moroccan Marijuana, Human Rights Activist

Last week, Moroccan human rights activist, denouncer of corruption, and marijuana legalization advocate Chakib El-Khayari began his third year in prison for "offending the Moroccan state." El-Khayari, president of the Human Rights Association of the Rif region in Morocco, has been jailed since February 17, 2009, and now, European drug reform activists and international human rights groups are calling for his release.

Chaikh El-Khayari (encod.org)
El-Khayari, who is also known for defending the rights of the Amazigh (Berber) people and African migrants passing through en route to Europe, aroused the ire of the Moroccan state for declaring to the press that the Moroccan military and police are collaborating in the trafficking of hashish to Europe. In 2008, he also took the path-breaking step of initiating a national debate on the legalization of industrial hemp and medical marijuana.

El-Khayari was arrested on February 17, 2009, and has been jailed ever since. He was convicted of "offending the Moroccan state" for his statements about the involvement of high-ranking officials in the police, the army, and the government in the hash trade. He was also convicted of violating Morocco's foreign exchange laws for depositing in a bank in Madrid a check from a Spanish newspaper for an article he had written.

In an open letter to Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) is calling for El Khayari's immediate release. It is also calling on activists to print out and sign the letter, sending copies to the king and to the Moroccan embassy in their countries.

"Nothing justifies the heavy sanction that has been applied to Chakib El-Khayari," the letter says. "It is a manifest act of repression that is contrary to the international instruments to protect human rights that were ratified by Morocco and in particular, the international agreement on civil and political rights between Morocco and the European Union. We denounce firmly the detention of Chakib El-Khayari and urge his inmediate and unconditional release."

It's not just drug reformers. Five months ago, Amnesty International called for El-Khayari's release, saying it considers him a prisoner of conscience, "solely detained for his anti-corruption statements and his human rights activities."

The call for El-Khayari's release comes as the Moroccan government teeters under the wave of popular unrest that is sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. Five people were killed during widespread protests seeking constitutional reform Sunday.

Morocco

American Facing Death Penalty in Egypt for Hemp Oil [FEATURE]

A US citizen jailed as a drug trafficker in Egypt in December after importing a shipment of non-drug hemp oil there was freed from jail late last month when mobs of protestors overran prisons across Cairo, but remains in legal limbo. Mostafa Soliman, who operates a company called Health Harvest, has so far been refused a new passport by the US Embassy in Cairo, which means he cannot leave the country. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted of drug trafficking.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mostafa-soliman.jpg
Mostafa Soliman
According to the Death Penalty Project of the International Harm Reduction Association, Egypt is one of 32 countries that have laws mandating the death penalty for some drug offenses on the books. While Egypt is not among the leading drug offender executioner countries, such as Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia, drug offenders do get executed there, the first one in 1989.

Soliman, 62, was born in Egypt and has retained Egyptian citizenship, but the dual citizen has resided in the US for the past 40 years. He had returned to Egypt to oversee the arrival of the hemp oil shipment.

When the shipment of bottled hemp oil arrived at Egyptian customs in December, authorities translated "hemp oil" as "hash oil," and that's when Soliman's life took a Kafkaesque turn. (Arabic does not have a distinct word for "hemp": any concoction from the cannabis plant, whether high THC or low THC, is simply called cannabis.

"Even the Egyptian drug enforcement people told me they knew it wasn't hash oil," Soliman said by phone from Cairo Friday night. "But they said they had to follow procedure."

That procedure resulted in a December 30 raid by drug enforcers on Soliman's storage facility and Soliman's arrest on drug trafficking charges. He was jailed pending trial, first at a neighborhood police station, and then, after the local police commander grew irritated by consular visits, transferred to one of Cairo's maximum security prisons.

"I was in an eight by eight cell that held as many as 30 people," said Soliman. "There were killers waiting to be hanged, thieves, rapists. That really upset me."

[
http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/tahrir-square.jpg
protests in Tahrir Square
]After Soliman had spent several weeks in prison, his Egyptian attorney managed to arrange bail, which would have allowed him to legally leave prison pending trial. But in a bizarre twist of fate, before he could be released, the current protests exploded in Cairo, and the city's prisons were besieged by mobs of uncertain provenance determined to free the prisoners. The prison guards fled the assault even as the prison caught on fire, leaving prisoners locked in their cells.

"I hid under the window," when the prison came under attack, Soliman said. "I was afraid of the Molotov Cocktails. Then the protestors came and broke the locks on the cells and freed us. It was all planned out. They knew all the military was being moved to the square for the protests and there would be little security at the prisons."

Soliman said he thought the Moslem Brotherhood was behind the attacks on the prisons, but like much else in the current crisis, the truth about that is obscure.

After fleeing the prison, Soliman went into hiding in Cairo, and contacted the US Embassy for help. He sought help in translating research reports on hemp and on obtaining a new passport -- Egyptian authorities had seized his, which meant he was effectively unable to leave the country.

But not much help was forthcoming, said both Soliman and members of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Vote Hemp, leading industry advocacy groups in the US that have taken up Soliman's cause.

"I face a death penalty for selling drugs," Soliman said. "I was hoping for the embassy to help me translate some analyses and reports from the States to help me prove my case, but they don't want to do anything. I did it myself, and spent $3,000 to get it done."

organic hemp seed oil label, from Soliman's company, Health Harvest
Nor would the embassy issue him a new passport. "I went to the embassy and a representative came out and said he would try to help me," recalled Soliman. "After I waited outside for three hours, he came back out and said a photo would expedite the process. I came back with the photo the next day, and he took it and again I waited outside for two hours. Then he came out and said he could not help me," he said.


"I don't know what's going on with these people; the embassy has not been very helpful at all. They're not cooperating," he said.

"The US Embassy has not treated this US citizen with any respect," said Vote Hemp spokesman Adam Eidinger. "Our attorneys sent them a letter, and they acknowledged receipt of it and said they are looking into it, but the embassy has not been sympathetic."

Vote Hemp and the HIA launched an action alert Friday afternoon in a bid to raise the profile of the case. The alert calls on people to write Secretary of State Clinton and urge her to ensure that Soliman is issued a new passport.

"We hope the action alert will generate thousands of letters to the secretary of state," said Eidinger. "We want them to take up his cause and give him a passport. Right now, he's in legal limbo. If he goes to the airport in Cairo, he will be arrested. The only reason we can tell they won't give him a passport is these drug charges. This man's life is on the line. If he's convicted, they could kill him. Egypt does have the death penalty for drug smuggling," he emphasized.

Soliman's arrest and the US Embassy's failure to assist have aroused the ire of others in the US hemp industry. "The Egyptian authorities are just following the lead of their DEA counterparts in this ridiculous conflation of healthy, nutritious, non-drug hemp seed oil with the drug marijuana," said David Bronner, head of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and a major player in the US hemp industry. "It's even more ridiculous when you consider that they are accusing someone of smuggling hash into Egypt in a hemp bottle. That is so clearly absurd."

"This is a tragic mistake that could be solved with a simple drug test. Mr. Soliman is being falsely accused of importing ‘hash oil’ when in fact it was healthy hemp food," said HIA executive director Eric Steenstra. "Our campaign to free Mostafa Soliman will hopefully jump-start action at the US State Department. We recognize that the unrest in Egypt will make it more difficult for US authorities to act, but this terrible mistake by Egyptian authorities was made well before the recent protests began and in many ways symbolizes the corruption the protestors are resisting," he added.

Until something happens, Soliman is stuck in Cairo and facing the dire prospect of being tried as a drug trafficker for importing a healthy food product. He said he hoped to be able to clear matters up, but that the ongoing political turmoil made his prospects unclear.

"If this situation gets worse, I'm not going to stick around," he said. "If it clears up, then maybe my attorney can clear up my legal situation. But I still need a passport."

Cairo
Egypt

Egypt Hates Hemp - Man Could Get Death for Importing Hemp Seed Oil (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 4, 2011

CONTACT: Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671 or adam@mintwood.com

American Health Food Exporter Speaks Out About Month Long Ordeal in Egyptian Jail for Importing Nutritious Hemp Food
Hemp Industry Asks US Department of State to Help Innocent Man in Limbo

WASHINGTON, DC –
The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), the nation’s leading trade organization working to promote non-drug industrial hemp, learned last week of the plight of Mostafa Soliman, an America citizen who has lived in the U.S. for 40 years and was wrongly imprisoned by Egyptian authorities on December 30, 2010 for importing organic hemp seed oil used in salads, and other healthy recipes.    If convicted, he is potentially facing death by hanging.

After almost a month in jail, Mr. Soliman was finally granted bail as protests raged across Egypt.  Just as he was about to be released on January 28th, his jail  was attacked by protesters and set on fire.  Guards and police fled leaving the prisoners to die in the burning jail, many of whom were crammed in 8 by 8 foot cells with as many as 30 people.  Eventually the protesters entered the jail and smashed the locks on the prisoner’s cells amidst smoke and tear gas, releasing Mr. Soliman and others in a scene that can only be described as dangerously chaotic.

Over the next few days Mr. Soliman along with attorneys in the U.S. working with the HIA asked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to help reissue Mr. Soliman a passport so he can return to the U.S.  However, the embassy has refused to issue the new passport so far for no apparent reason except that he is facing unfounded drug charges in Egypt.

The Egyptian born Mr. Soliman, 62, is owner of Health Harvest, the company which exported the hemp seed oil from Canada and operates in Egypt.  He lives in Aventura, Florida, but was spending time in Egypt to manage the arrival of products that he exports from the U.S. and Canada.

“This is a tragic mistake that could be solved with a simple drug test.  Mr. Soliman is being falsely accused of importing ‘hash oil’ when  in fact it was healthy hemp food,” says Eric Steenstra, Executive Director of the HIA.  “The HIA and Votehemp.com are launching a campaign to free Mostafa Soliman that will hopefully jump-start action at the U.S. State Department.  We recognize that the unrest in Egypt will make it more difficult for U.S. authorities to act, but this terrible mistake by Egyptian authorities was made well before the recent protests began and in many ways symbolizes the corruption the protestors are resisting,” adds Steenstra.

To arrange interview with Mostafa Soliman via Skype or telephone from his home Cairo, Egypt or spokespeople for the Hemp Industries Association please call Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671 or email adam@mintwood.com.

###

Location: 
Egypt

Hemp: Good Stuff, Bad Rap

Hemp has omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, contains 33 percent protein, is a good source of vitamin E and is low in saturated fat. It's an environmentally friendly crop that grows fast and requires few pesticides. But it is also a controversial food source because of its relationship with its cousin, marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
KSTU (UT)
URL: 
http://www.fox13now.com/health/wellness/sc-health-0119-hemp-20110119,0,5625659.story

Cannabinomics: The Marijuana Policy Tipping Point (BOOK REVIEW)

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Cannabinomics: The Marijuana Policy Tipping Point," by Christopher Glenn Fichtner, MD (2010, Well Mind Press, 345 pp., $29.95 HB)

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Cannabinomics? That is simply Chris Fichtner's eye-grabbing term for managing our relationship with cannabis. Or it is cannabis science, cannabis policy, and cannabis economics. Or, more broadly, it is the development of the vocabulary that will allow us to move from pot prohibition to regulation.


I read lots and lots of books about marijuana policy -- it's part of my job -- and I have to say that Cannabinomics is one of the most gratifying I've seen in a long time. While Fichtner covers a lot of familiar territory -- the increasing acceptance of medical marijuana, the amazing stupidity of and harms derived from pot prohibition, the economic potential of marijuana -- he does so in a manner that is both fresh and exceedingly well thought out.

Fichtner is an MD, a psychiatrist, and public mental health specialist who has served, among other posts, as the Illinois state mental health director. As such, he brings a powerful professional focus to marijuana and health and marijuana and mental health. But equally as valuable, he brings with him a calm, considered, and compassionate approach to the Gordian Knot of issues that surround cannabis in our society.

In fact, I would have to say that if I had to choose a single title dealing with marijuana policy to give to  someone new to the conversation, I'd have to go with Cannabinomics. Fichtner is cautious and even-handed -- he is, after all, a psychiatrist, not a wild-eyed pamphleteer -- and that makes his carefully considered judgments all the more powerful.

As a practicing psychiatrist, Fichtner has had ample opportunity to see how medical marijuana (or, as he prefers, therapeutic cannabis) has worked for some of his patients. Cannabinomics includes several abbreviated case histories of patients who, on their own, turned to medical marijuana to relieve symptoms ranging from epileptic seizures to depression to PTSD. That provides him with an opportunity to tout "consumer-driven health care" -- in other words, listening to patients about what actually works for them.

That is at odds with the prevailing model of scientific research on medicines, which relies on rigorous, large sample, carefully-designed testing. As Fichtner notes, there is nothing wrong with such testing, but it should not be exclusively relied on at the expense of real world patient experience. If a patient reports that carefully titrated use of marijuana reduces the frequency of his seizures, it does no one any good to retort that such findings are not supported by the scientific data.

Of course, marijuana is funny that way. It's not a medicine in the eyes of Western medicine because it's not a synthesized and standardized concoction available in pill form from a major pharmaceutical company. In fact, Fichtner suggests that perhaps marijuana should not be treated as a medicine but as an herbal, or traditional medicine. He also wonders, quite convincingly, whether health care in the US is driven more by the needs of pharmaceutical companies than those of human beings.

But while Cannabinomics begins with medical marijuana, it isn't just about medical marijuana. Fichtner also discusses the history and results of marijuana prohibition in the US. Unsurprisingly, like every even-handed observer on the topic, he finds prohibition to be a disaster, both in terms of public policy and in terms of wasted opportunities. He doesn't cover a lot of new ground there, but he does calmly and dispassionately make the case that pot prohibition is one of the great policy failures of the 20th Century.

He doesn’t want it to be one of the great policy failures of the 21st Century, and the final section o Cannabinomics is devoted to getting us off the schneid when it comes to actually enacting real marijuana law reform. Fichtner has some concrete recommendations for that: a federal cannabis regulatory commission, the federal government to become a cannabis purchaser, a pilot program granting veterans access to medical marijuana through the VA, fast-track approval of Sativex, opening the cannabis trade to legal entrepreneurship, and allowing the states to experiment with new licensing processes for age-restricted substances, including alcohol and tobacco.

Cannabinomics is a humane, thoughtful, and powerful look at how we as a society can better deal with one of our most popular -- and least harmful -- substances. It should be especially useful in bringing those who are not pot advocates but who have a genuine concern about what the best marijuana policies might look like into the discussion. And that makes it a very important work indeed.

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The House Made of Hemp

Location: 
Ashville, NC
United States
America's first house made primarily of hemp has been built. Using a product known as Hemcrete – a mix of industrial hemp, lime and water – a team of 40 volunteers, sub-contractors and designers have recently completed construction of a hemp house located in Ashville, North Carolina. Eco-friendly design and construction company Push Design has gained the support of community members and local officials alike and now plans to build more.
Publication/Source: 
Gizmag (Australia)
URL: 
http://www.gizmag.com/first-us-hemp-house/17115/

DVD Review: "Jack Herer is the Emperor of Hemp"

"Jack Herer is the Emperor of Hemp," Memorial Tribute Edition (2010, Double J Films, $19.95)

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Jack Herer, author of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," and arguably "the greatest cannabis crusader of all time," died in April after suffering a heart attack at the Portland Hempstalk Festival eight months earlier. The passing of the movement icon prompted the release of this memorial tribute edition of "Jack Herer is the Emperor of Hemp," which updates the decade-old release with new interview footage with the prophet of hemp and includes the entire 1943 Department of Agriculture film "Hemp for Victory."


But it's not just the new, never before seen interview material that makes this DVD reissue worthwhile, because Jack Herer's story is fascinating in itself and "Jack Herer" does an admirable job of explicating the man, his evolution, and his passions. (Not to mention you'll get to see NORML founder Keith Stroup before his hair turned white!)

Herer's story is a true American journey (and by the way, it's pronounced HAIR-er, not Huh-RARE). Born in 1939, Herer entered the 1960s as a conservative -- an Army veteran and Goldwater supporter, married and living in California's Central Valley, who was offended by the upheavals of the time, disgusted by anti-war protestors, and blamed much of the upheaval on the demon weed. Who knew?

By the following decade, things had changed dramatically. Divorced, Herer's new girlfriend persuaded him to try marijuana. Here, the DVD shows a dancing girl as Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" booms out on the soundtrack, an apt evocation of Herer's transformation from military policeman to hippie, from Goldwater Republican to radical.

With Emmy Award winner Peter Coyote narrating, and with archival footage and interviews from the likes of NORML's Keith Stroup, historian Michael Aldrich, Kevin Zeese, and Dr. John Morgan, "Jack Herer" tracks Herer's odyssey from author of a 1973 marijuana cartoon book to his subsequent experience as recipient of knowledge from innumerable people about not just pot, but hemp, and all its uses, his opening of the first hemp store on Venice Beach in 1979, and ultimately the publication of the book that made him famous and re-energized the marijuana legalization movement, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes."

The DVD acknowledges the early conflicts between Herer and the drug reform movement, which at first considered him at best an over-enthusiastic partisan and at worst a crank. Herer thought hemp could be central to ending marijuana prohibition, not to mention that it could "save the world," and the be-suited boys back East weren't buying what that wild-eyed, tie-dyed, missionary Californian was selling.

A number of years later, the movement types were suitable contrite. "He overstated the case a bit," said Stroup. "We were embarrassed; we thought it could undermine our credibility."

Instead Herer almost singlehandedly revitalized the pot movement with the 1985 publication of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," the magnum opus of hemp, and an intoxicating combination of unknown history, polemics, and passion that turned a new generation on not just to hemp, but to pot, the history of its criminalization, and the need to undo prohibition.

"Jack Herer" describes the tenets of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" fairly without wholeheartedly endorsing his theory of an evil troika of Harry Anslinger, the Dupont family, and Andrew Mellon conspiring to bring on prohibition. And I think that's fair. Herer's conspirators most certainly played a role in pot prohibition, but the anti-marijuana movement was alive and well in this country well before Anslinger and the others were active in the 1930s.

Maybe hemp won't "save the world," but there is no arguing that it is a tremendously valuable plant with a multitude of uses that can help improve the environment, create jobs, and provide us with everything from biodiesel to body panels to an ever-increasing variety of hemp-based foods.

And Herer's perhaps overenthusiastic message was received enthusiastically by that new generation, especially when tied to his never-forgotten broader campaign to legalize marijuana, beginning with initiative campaigns back in the 1970s. Between bringing hemp to the forefront and energizing a movement suffering through the depths of the Reagan Era, Herer cemented his place in movement history.

But he didn't stop there. In fact, he didn't stop until he fell over unconscious at a movement event just after giving one last speech. Herer was a movement presence throughout the 1990s, and by then, had won the acceptance of the movement, which recognized the enormous contribution he had made. Despite a 2001 stroke that laid him low, he bounced back, still out proselytizing and organizing, even as he moved slowly and struggled to control his voice.

In California, at least, every marijuana movement figure of a certain age knew Jack Herer. Whether from his days as the hemp hawker of Venice Beach or the decades of activism that followed, Herer has made a lasting impact on California's -- and indeed, the country's -- marijuana legalization movement. "Jack Herer is the Emperor of Hemp" pays fond homage to a true movement hero. It is definitely worth checking out, especially as you ponder the man, his life's work, and his impact on the marijuana reform movement.

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Cannabis Gets a Trade Association [FEATURE]

The marijuana industry is growing up. On Tuesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) officially came into being to represent the interests of the marijuana industry and its consumers. The group aims to influence policy in Washington, DC, just the same way any other industry does -- by lobbying the federal government to protect the interests of its members.

"We've seen such tremendous growth in this industry in the last five years," said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. "It seems like the industry is not just surviving in the midst of economic decline, but booming. But it wasn’t represented in Washington, DC, like all sorts of other industries are. I just started talking to some of the major industry players, and just about everybody was really enthusiastic about jumping on board. This thing just blossomed."

The makeup of the NCIA's board of directors, with about one third of its 23 members from California, one third from Colorado, and one third from the rest of the country, correlates roughly with where the cannabis business action currently is. Most of the board members represent dispensaries or associated businesses, but there's also Kush magazine, Weedmaps.com, a pipe-market, an insurance company, and a hemp-seller.

At least three board members have well-known positions favoring marijuana legalization. As long-time head of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia has put big money into legalization initiatives; Oaksterdam University's Dale Sky Jones was a spokesperson for the Proposition 19 legalization initiative; and as director of Sensible Colorado, Brian Vicente is working with others to get a legalization initiative on the ballot there in 2012.

"We wanted to be diverse in the types of businesses represented," said Smith. "It's not just dispensaries, it's all these other businesses creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars for the economy."

Becky DeKeuster is CEO of Northeast Patients Group, which will operate four state-licensed, nonprofit medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine. DeKeuster joined the NCIA board of directors and hopes to encourage others in the medical cannabis community to support the fledgling trade association. "I’m proud to be one of NCIA’s founding members," DeKeuster said. "This organization will be a great step forward not only for the medical cannabis industry, but also for the interests of the countless patients nationwide who rely on us to provide safe and effective natural medicine."

Another NCIA board member, Kush Magazine CEO Bob Selan, said that the trade association will be the force that finally unifies an extremely diverse industry. "In my years working for a top cannabis culture publication, I’ve met an astonishing number of talented individuals who are experts in their particular field. From cannabis cultivators to pipe manufacturers to crop insurance brokers, all will benefit from being collectively represented by the national industry association," Selan said.

The NCIA wants to attract at least 200 members in the coming year, Smith said. Regular membership costs $1,000 a year, a sponsoring membership is $2,500 a year, and a sustaining membership is $5,000 a year. If the group meets its membership goals, it could raise a minimum of $200,000 to go to work on Capitol Hill.

A sponsoring membership gives the member the right to vote on the group's board, half of which will be up for election each year. A sustaining membership gives the member the right to run for a place on the board. With the board setting policy, the NCIA is an association that will truly be run by its members.

"Our intention is to hire a lobbying firm," said Smith. "Right now, we have Steve Fox from MPP working part-time for us. As we raise funds, we'll be hiring lobbyists in the District and bringing in a full-time staff."

The group will work to get the federal government to let states set their own marijuana policies, and to ensure that federal agencies treat businesses compliant with state laws just like any other law-abiding businesses, said Smith. He pointed to agencies like the IRS and the Treasury Department, as well as the Department of Justice.

"We want cannabis-related businesses treated the same as any others," he said. "Now, we have things like banks not accepting deposits from legal medical marijuana providers. We may well be lobbying executive agencies to make administrative changes, as opposed to congressional action."

Smith is based in Phoenix, which, as he pointed out, is the "next wave" of legitimate cannabis businesses after Arizona became the 15th medical marijuana state earlier this month, but he'll be hitting the road to build the NCIA, he said. "I'll be traveling the country and getting new members to get the clout we need to make the change we want. Our lobbyist will be representing hundreds of businesses, thousands of jobs, and millions of tax dollars. It's really important we build membership as fast as we can."

The NCIA is in embryonic form right now, but it has the potential to open a new front in the battle to end the persecution of marijuana users and producers. The degree to which it succeeds will be a measure of the real maturity of the contemporary marijuana industry.

Washington, DC
United States

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