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Marijuana Business Forum Seeks to Make New Arizona Law Work [FEATURE]

Voters in Arizona last month passed Proposition 203, an initiative that makes Arizona the 15th state to approve medical marijuana. State officials now have a little more than three months to come up with rules and regulations to implement the program, but budding medical marijuana entrepreneurs are not just twiddling their thumbs in the meantime.

With equal measures of enthusiasm and apprehension, would-be cannabis businesspeople are looking to cash in. The Arizona law allows for dispensaries -- as many as 124 of them statewide -- as well as off-site medical marijuana grow ops, but with the rules and regulations just being written, just how the dispensaries and grow-ops will be regulated is unclear at this point.

While businesspeople are eager to start serving the community and making money, they also worry about their investments. They look to states like California and Colorado, which also allow for dispensaries, but which have also seen significant blowback from communities that have felt overwhelmed -- Los Angeles, for example, where the city council responded to the nearly a thousand dispensaries that popped up in the area by cutting their numbers back dramatically.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is reporting that its phones are ringing off the hook with calls from people wanting to know how to go about setting up businesses that cater to the medical marijuana community. And MPP executive director Rob Kampia told the Chronicle the group is responding with a December 13 evening forum on the medical marijuana business in Phoenix.

"We've been getting lots of phone calls and emails from people in Arizona, as well as places like Colorado, who want to know all about this new law we just passed," Kampia explained. "These are entrepreneurs who smell opportunity and want a crash course on what the law would do and what the prospects are that the health department or city councils might mess with it. When a bunch of people are contacting you asking for guidance, you can either blow them off or you can field each call individually and have your organization come to a screaming halt. We chose a third alternative."

That would be the December 13 forum. In true entrepreneurial spirit, MPP will charge the would-be cannabis businesses $300 per individual or $500 for two people. A web site for the forum will be up shortly, but in the meantime, people who are interesting in attending should send an email to

"This will be a money-maker for MPP," said Kampia. "We'll use the money for lobbying efforts in Arizona and elsewhere."

But of course, it's not just a money-maker. "It's about educating the community," Kampia said. "One byproduct of education is that people will be less likely to creatively interpret the law."

That has been a problem in non-dispensary states, such as Montana and Michigan, where the cutting edge of medical marijuana entrepreneurship is bumping up against hostile state and local governments and recalcitrant law enforcement officials. Similarly, in California, where dispensaries are not licensed by the state, dispensaries face restrictions and even bans from local governments. Even in Colorado, which, like Arizona, features state licensing of dispensaries, conflicts have arisen.

"We will be giving words of warning at the forum, particularly about Michigan and Montana," said Kampia. "In Michigan, there are people who think the law allows for the unlimited operation of dispensaries, and as a result, the legislature will try to roll back the law. In Montana, you have that traveling circus giving group physician recommendations to patients, and that's causing similar backlash in the state legislature. There are already bills pre-filed to rollback or repeal the Montana law."

Some of the messages the forum will put out may seem obvious, but they aren't so obvious that somebody somewhere hasn’t gotten into trouble for not heeding them. "Don't put on a traveling road show, don't open a dispensary without a permit, don't do inappropriate advertising," Kampia ticked off in rapid-fire order.

Kampia will be at the forum in Phoenix to discuss the relationship between federal law and Prop 203. He will be joined by MPP's Karen O'Keefe, who co-authored the newly-passed initiative; Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente, who will explain how dispensaries work in Colorado, and a representative of the Phoenix consulting firm that worked with MPP to pass the law, who will discuss how Arizona law will change and how state and local authorities might respond.

Medical marijuana as a business opportunity may seem crass to a sizeable segment of the community, but that is the American way. If people don't think sick people should have to pay for their medicine, that's a defensible position, but in the meanwhile it is probably unfair to expect medical marijuana providers to be the only ones not getting paid.

Phoenix, AZ
United States

Medical Marijuana Bill Stalls in the Illinois House

United States
The bill failed on a 53-59-1 vote (60 was needed for passage) -- the sponsor, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, has put the bill on postponed consideration, which effectively pulled it back before the vote was official and allows him to try again later if he can come up with extra votes. The House will meet today for the last time this year, then for a few days in January before the new General Assembly is seated. If the bill doesn't pass by then, Lang would have to start from scratch.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Lawmakers Debate Medical Marijuana

United States
Illinois lawmakers are back at work -- the veto session started and one of the biggest issues is coming up for vote. The "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Bill" could legalize medical marijuana. Supporters of the bill only need 2 more votes to ensure it passes.

Montel Williams To Illinois Lawmakers: Pass Medical Marijuana Bill Now (Press Release)


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

NOVEMBER 29, 2010

Montel Williams To Illinois Lawmakers: Pass Medical Marijuana Bill Now

Former Talk Show Host and Multiple Sclerosis Patient Will Meet Tomorrow With State House Members to Urge Passage of SB 1381 

CONTACT: Karen O’Keefe: 703-863-8471 or Mike Meno: 202-905-2030 or

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS — Former talk show host, U.S. Navy officer, and multiple sclerosis patient Montel Williams will meet with members of the Illinois House of Representatives tomorrow to urge them to vote in favor of SB 1381, a bill that would make Illinois the 16th state in the nation to allow chronically ill patients to use marijuana with the recommendation of their doctor. The Senate passed the bill – which would create one of the tightest regulated medical marijuana programs in the country – last year.

         Mr. Williams suffers from multiple sclerosis, and uses medical marijuana to help ease the effects of his condition. “Illinois lawmakers should act without delay to make marijuana legally available for medical use,” Williams said. “Every day that they delay is another one of needless suffering for patients like me all across the state. Fifteen other states have already passed medical marijuana laws, and Illinois’s lawmakers now have an opportunity to ensure that those suffering in their state will be treated with the same compassionate care.” 

            Sixty-eight percent of Illinois voters favor allowing seriously and terminally ill patients to use and grow marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor recommends it, according to a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll. On Jan. 3, Gov. Quinn told the Associated Press, “People who are seriously ill deserve access to all medical treatments that will help them fight their illness and recover.”

            Since 1996, 15 states and Washington, D.C., have passed medical marijuana laws, and more than a dozen others considered such laws in 2010. The most recent was Arizona, where voters approved a medical marijuana law earlier this month.

            Under SB 1381, qualified patients could obtain medical marijuana from state-licensed organizations regulated by the state health department, which would also issue medical marijuana ID cards to patients who receive a recommendation from their doctor. Public use of marijuana and driving under the influence would be prohibited. In Illinois, the bill is supported by the Illinois Nurses Association, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Protestants for the Common Good, the Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois, and Illinois public health advocate and physician to the governor, Dr. Quentin Young. Nationally, the American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and many other esteemed health organizations have endorsed the medical efficacy of marijuana.

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit


United States

Conservative Republican Leads Effort to Decriminalize Marijuana

United States
Virginia Delegate Harvey Morgan has proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in the upcoming General Assembly session. HB 1443 would replace criminal penalties for simple possession with a civil fine of $500. Morgan is a Republican and, more important, an assistant clinical professor of pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical school.
The Daily Progress (VA)

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Regulation Reform Bill Stalled

The New Jersey General Assembly Monday voted 48-22 to require the administration of Gov. Chris Christie (R) to make major revisions to its proposed regulations around medical marijuana, but backers of the changes were unable to come up with enough votes to pass them in the Senate. Under the resolution, the administration would have to make changes to its rules or they would be invalidated.

patients share victory hug after passage of legislation, January 2010
The Christie administration has infuriated medical marijuana supporters by first delaying the implementation of the program and then proposing strict regulations on the program. Among other things, the rules propose licensing just two medical marijuana growers and four distribution centers, as well as capping the potency of medical marijuana -- something no other state has attempted.

Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Union City) told the Newark Star-Ledger Christie was was "overstepping his bounds" by "refusing to implement a program" that is now the law in New Jersey. He said he pulled the Senate resolution from the agenda after learning that one Democratic senator was absent and another would vote against it.

"It's very frustrating," said Scutari about the decision by Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson) to vote against the resolution. Stack had voted for the medical marijuana bill, Scutari noted, before suggesting that Stack, who is the mayor of a cash-strapped town, did not want to cross the governor.

Scutari will bring the resolution back before the Senate for a vote on December 13, he said.

Trenton, NJ
United States

Northern Marianas Islands Senate Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill

The Senate in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands has rejected a bill that would have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. The bill had passed the House two weeks ago. The bill would have allowed people 21 and over to possess, cultivate, and transport marijuana for personal use.

Saipan -- no pot in paradise (image from Wikimedia)
The passage of the bill by the House marked the first time a pot legalization bill had passed in a legislative chamber in any US territory.

The bill, HB 17-45, was championed by Rep. Stanley Torres (I-Saipan). Earlier this year, a cost-benefit analysis performed by the House Committee on Natural Resources said enacting the bill into law "will possibly result in the loss of federal funds but at the same time the Commonwealth government will generate funds through taxation."

Torres and other legalization supporters also argued that the bill would allow access to marijuana by the ill and reduce crime and violence in black markets.

But Senate President Paul Manglona (R-Rota) said after the House vote that the Senate would kill the bill. "It's for the same reasons I mentioned before," he told the Saipan Tribune, citing concerns about marijuana use's impact on CNMI youth and other ill effects on the community.

And Gov. Beningno Fitial signaled that he was okay with medical marijuana, but not for non-medical.
"I support it for medicinal use," Fitial told reporters. "I never smoke marijuana myself so I cannot talk much about it because I don't have the experience."

A bill just for medical marijuana may be next in the US Pacific territory. Senator Luis Crisostimo, who supported the bill that was just defeated, said he plans to introduce separate medical marijuana legislation.

United States Minor Outlying Islands

Proposed Medical Marijuana Rules Again Face Scrutiny from N.J. Lawmakers

United States
New Jersey lawmakers today will seek to change rules proposed by the Christie administration over medical marijuana. Some lawmakers say the rules don't follow the intent of the law they passed earlier this year to make New Jersey the 14th state to allow medical marijuana.
The Star-Ledger (NJ)

Northern California Cities Bring Marijuana Growing Into the Light

United States
As numerous cities get set to levy voter-approved taxes on medical marijuana retailers, some municipalities in northern California are already moving aggressively toward creating government-sanctioned marijuana farms to help supply them. Cities hope to rake in even more tax revenue from medical marijuana cultivation, which has remained in the shadows although it has been legal in the state since 1996.
The Washington Post (DC)

L.A. City Council Eases Restrictions on Medical Marijuana Outlets

Los Angeles, CA
United States
The City Council tweaked its medical marijuana ordinance today to ease restrictions that would have drastically reduced the number of dispensaries allowed to continue operating in Los Angeles. Councilman Paul Koretz said that under the original ordinance, "we would have, I believe, unintentionally and erroneously disqualified some dispensaries...and these (amendments) would reinstate some that I believe would have been removed by mistake."
Beverly Hills Courier (CA)

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