Marijuana Industry

RSS Feed for this category

Oregon Marijuana Initiative Hands in Final Signatures

Oregon could well be the third state to end up with a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot after supporters of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) said they had handed in more than 165,000 signatures by last Friday's deadline. Marijuana regulation and legalization initiatives have already qualified for the ballot in Colorado and Washington.

The Oregon measure needs 87,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

"We believe we are going to make it easily," said OCTA chief petitioner Paul Stanford at a Salem news conference Friday morning.

But it's still nail-biting time as state election officials can take up to a month to validate signatures, and they have already invalidated signatures handed in earlier at a record rate. At the end of May, OCTA turned in 108,000 signatures, only to have nearly half of them invalidated, a shockingly high percentage of disqualifications.

With only 55,000 valid signatures from that first batch of 108,000, that means OCTA has to come up with 32,000 valid signatures from that second batch of 57,000. If the same rate of invalidation holds, the measure will fall just short.

But last month, Stanford told the Chronicle the OCTA campaign had tightened up its signature gathering in the wake of the high invalidation rate on the early signatures. "We're screening our signatures much better now, we're checking in with every single petitioner. We're closely scrutinizing every incoming sheet," he said.

If OCTA makes the ballot and is approved by voters in November, Oregon would regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over. The measure would also legalize hemp production in the state.

A second marijuana effort, the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative (OMPI), would have asked Oregon voters to approve a state constitutional amendment to legalize personal cultivation and possession of marijuana. While it, too, appeared to have a good chance of qualifying earlier this year, it too suffered from record high signature invalidation rates.

Because it is a constitutional amendment, it faces a higher hurdle, needing 124,000 valid signatures to qualify. Chief petitioner Robert Wolfe told Reuters this week he did not expect OMPI to make the ballot because of the high number of disqualifications. He told the Chronicle last month he was contemplating legal challenges to the invalidations.

In a month or less, we will know if OCTA has qualified. We could end up with a Western weed legalization trifecta for November.

Salem, OR
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

California continues to have conniptions over medical marijuana, a scientific review finds marijuana's Schedule I status "untenable," and much, much more:

National

On Monday, the Open Neurology Journal published a review of several recent clinical trials assessing the safety of medical marijuana that found marijuana's current placement as a Schedule I controlled substance with no medical value in not scientifically justified. "Based on evidence currently available, the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that marijuana has no medical use, or that information on safety is lacking," the authors wrote. The lead author is Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. The review and its conclusions directly contradict the stance of the DEA and FDA.

California

Last Wednesday, the state Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision that okayed the city of Los Angeles shutting down a Culver City dispensary. The city had used nuisance abatement measures to shut down the Organica dispensary, and the store had appealed, arguing that it was protected by state law allowing collectives.  LA city attorneys lauded the decision as vindicating their stance "dispensing and selling marijuana…remains illegal." Medical marijuana advocates beg to differ, and all are waiting on the Supreme Court to settle the issue when it decides another dispensary case later this year.

Last Thursday, Fresno banned outdoor grows within the city limits. The city council voted unanimously for the ban, which was recommended by Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who said outgrows promote violence in the city. A temporary ban had been in place since January. Under the new rule, cultivating the drug in an enclosed and secure structure, and in compliance with state marijuana law, is permitted.

Also last Thursday, a Santa Fe Springs councilman pleaded guilty in federal court to soliciting a bribe from a would-be medical marijuana dispensary operator. Councilman Joseph Serrano copped to the offense, then resigned his seat later that same day.

Last Friday, Rancho Mirage ordered a dispensary to close after city officials became aware of it when "residents in the area complained of smelling marijuana." The city is already being sued by two other dispensaries that have been forced out of business by the city's moratorium on dispensaries.

Also last Friday, a Sacramento ballot initiative signature-gathering effort came up short. Sponsored by the Committee for Safe Patient Access to Regulated Cannabis (CSPARC), the initiative sought to provide safe, regulated access for patients in the county. They needed 42,300 signatures by Monday and only had 25,000. While the measure will now not qualify for the November ballot, it could still qualify for a later election if it gets the necessary signatures by July 23.

On Monday, a state appeals court ruled that LA County's ban on dispensaries is illegal. "[… T]he County's complete ban on all 'medical marijuana dispensaries,' including collectives and cooperatives authorized under Health and Safety Code section 11362.775, conflicts with, and is thus preempted by, California's medical marijuana laws," wrote Judge P.J. Mallano in the unanimous decision handed down by the California Court of Appeals (2nd District) . The case is County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective, et al. The ruling is being seen as a major blow to arguments made in defense of the legality of dispensary bans.

Also on Monday, medical marijuana growers sued Yuba County over its new nuisance ordinance for marijuana cultivation. The lawsuit charges that the ordinance adopted by supervisors in May is overly restrictive and runs afoul of state law. Next week, the growers will file a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the ordinance from being enforced. The county's ordinance placed limits on the number of plants, the amount of ground the plants could be grown on, and the types of parcels where they could be grown. But the complaint states the ordinance doesn't address collectives, where one person might grow several plants on behalf of others, beyond the six-mature-plant limit stipulated in the ordinance.

Also on Monday, San Leandro put its plan to ban dispensaries on hold in the wake of the state appeals court ruling County of Los Angeles vs. Alternative Medical Cannabis Collective earlier the same day. That ruling invalidated LA County's ban on dispensaries. San Leandro has a temporary moratorium in place and had planned to make it permanent. That moratorium expires September 30.

On Wednesday, activists reported that a raid was underway at a Sacramento dispensary. The action, apparently undertaken by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office was aimed at the First Amendment dispensary inside the Farmer's Market.

Colorado

Last Friday, a jury found medical marijuana patient Bob Crouse not guilty of possession with intent to distribute. Crouse, a leukemia sufferer argued that he needed large numbers of plants to ensure a steady supply of "phoenix tears," a slushy oil derives from marijuana plants. It takes a pound of marijuana to make an ounce of the oil. While state law limits patients to cultivating three plants, it also allows patients to possess as much as medically necessary. Crouse mounted an affirmative defense, and the jury agreed with him.

Massachusetts

Last Friday, a poll showed strong support for medical marijuana. The Public Policy Polling survey found that 57% of those polled said they would be okay with allowing patients to have access to medicinal pot, whereas 33% of voters were against it. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.3%.

On Monday, backers of a medical marijuana initiative said they had submitted enough signatures to make the November ballot. The Committee for Compassionate Medicine said it had more than the 11,000 additional signatures needed by Tuesday's deadline. The initiative would legalize marijuana for the treatment of certain illnesses and set up a dispensary system.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, an appeals court ruled patients can be arrested for marijuana possession if they don't have their state-issued paperwork or registry card. An appeals panel had earlier ruled that James Nicholson of Ottawa County could be immune from prosecution by producing his medical marijuana paperwork in court, but the full court disagreed, holding that medical marijuana registry cards and applications must be "reasonably accessible at the location" of an arrest for an individual to be immune from arrest.

Montana

Last Wednesday, medical marijuana entrepreneur Jason Christ filed a lawsuit against the Missoula Police Department, Missoula County Attorney’s Office, Missoula County 911, and other parties in US District Court. He is seeking $50 million in punitive damages, among other demands, for the defendants' "willful and malicious actions" that have caused him "emotional distress." Christ claims he is so harassed that it has "affected his bodily functions" and forced him to camp "down a vast network of unimproved dirt roads." The controversial Christ gained notoriety in 2009 and 2010 by helping thousands of people obtain physician recommendations for medical marijuana with his traveling one-day clinics, a move other medical marijuana advocates have criticized as providing fodder to foes, who successfully gutted the state law last year.

Nevada

On Monday, a legislator said he will introduce a medical marijuana bill next year that would allow registered patients a legal way to obtain their marijuana. Assemblyman Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) said Monday he requested the bill because the legislature has failed in its duty to create an appropriate way for legal users to acquire marijuana. Segerblom wants to establish certified marijuana dispensaries, licensed farms where marijuana may be grown and to allow patients to buy from California dispensaries. His bill also calls for this medical marijuana to be taxed, although a rate has not yet been established. Another medical marijuana bill is being introduced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Details were not available.

New Jersey


Last Wednesday, a would-be dispensary operator sued the city of Camden over its rejection of his dispensary and cultivation application. Ilan Zaken, the owner of two vacant clothing stores, filed the lawsuit against the city, its zoning officer and its Zoning Board of Adjustments, alleging that they illegally rejected his application to use the buildings for the production of medical marijuana. Since New Jersey's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act went into effect more than two years ago and since Gov. Chris Christie (R) cleared the way earlier this year, only two of the six nonprofits approved by the state to sell marijuana have won the necessary local permits.

Medical Marijuana Update

The feds continue to play hardball in California and local elected officials across the state are grappling with the issues. Meanwhile, Vermont moves ahead on dispensaries while New Hampshire's medical marijuana bill can't overcome a gubernatorial veto, and that's not all. Let's get to it:

Arizona

On Monday, an applicant for a dispensary and grow site sued Maricopa County, accusing the county of purposefully stalling action on its application to prevent it from seeking a state operating license. The lawsuit by White Mountain Health Center Inc. charges the county would not certify or reject its registration certificate, one of the Arizona Department of Health Services' first requirements for obtaining a dispensary license. Maricopa County last year decided to not allow employees to accept, process, or issue permits for dispensaries or grows until marijuana becomes a federally approved drug, but that puts the county at odds with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which only allows local jurisdictions to impose "reasonable" zoning restrictions for dispensaries, and requires local zoning approval before a permit is processed by the state.

California

Last Tuesday, the Del Mar City Council opted to hear a report on a ballot initiative that seeks to improve access to medical marijuana in the city. The move came after activists handed in almost double the number of signatures required to place the initiative on the November ballot. The council could have adopted the initiative as written, put the issue on the ballot, or ordered a report, and it chose the latter. The proposed ordinance would allow dispensaries in the city and tax and regulate them. The council will have 10 days after receiving the report to either adopt the ordinance or order an election. The report is due by July 13.

Also last Tuesday, the Roseville City Council voted to ban outdoor grows. The council voted 4-1 to ban the grows after some residents complained about odors. The ordinance will take effect November 1, at the end of the outdoor growing season. The ordinance also limits indoor grows to fewer than 50 square feet in the grower's primary residence. Opponents of the ordinance argued to no avail that because Roseville doesn't allow dispensaries, patients must grow their own, and that indoor grows will cost patients money for equipment and operating costs.

Also last Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council held a contentious meeting as it considered whether to completely ban dispensaries later this summer. No votes were taken, but discussion was heated at times as the council revisited its ban on dispensaries and the temporary exemptions for 18 of them, which are slated to terminate on August 12.

Last Wednesday, Malibu's only two dispensaries announced they were closing, saying they had been hit with letters from federal prosecutors threatening prosecution and forfeiture. The letters to the Malibu dispensaries were among 34 sent to what the feds called "illegal marijuana operations" in Los Angeles County. The warning letters targeted all known dispensaries in the communities of Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, South El Monte, La Mirada, Diamond Bar, Artesia, Paramount, South Gate, City of Commerce, Agoura Hills and Malibu.

Last Thursday, Imperial Beach officials approved an initiative to repeal the city's ban on dispensaries and replace it with reasonable regulations. The county registrar said petitioners from Americans for Safe Access and the LGBT nonprofit Canvass for a Cause turned in enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The city could vitiate the need for a special election on the issue by approving the initiative at the City Council, which will be discussing the matter at its July 18 meeting.

Also last Thursday, Fresno made permanent its ban on outdoor marijuana grows. The city council in January approved a temporary ban, and last week decided to join the rest of Kern County in banning outdoor grows. Police said indoor grows were less likely to attract criminals, but medical marijuana advocates countered that instead of thieves jumping fences to steal plants, there will now be home invasion robberies. Advocates also complained that indoor grows require expensive equipment and waste energy.

Last Friday, Lake County's Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Advisory Committee met to hear an update about an urgency measure to adopt an interim law for marijuana growth but was precluded from directly discussing the merits of the proposal on Friday. The committee chair charged with making recommendations said it would be improper for the panel to discuss the ordinance at that meeting. The proposed temporary law would ban commercial medical marijuana cultivation as well as all growing on vacant properties and ban any grows within 600 feet of a school. It would also limit outdoor cultivation to three mature female or six immature marijuana plants on parcels smaller than half an acre, and six mature female or 12 immature plants on lands half an acre or larger, accessory to an approved residential use. Collective or cooperative organizations consisting of qualified patients and primary caregivers could grow as many as 36 mature female plants on parcels of at least five acres. Those groups would have to adhere to several rules, including that their site must contain a permitted residence and that their growing area must be screened from public view with a wooden fence.

Also last Friday, Vallejo police raided the Better Health Group Collective for the third time in the last three months. Better Health is one of at least five Vallejo dispensaries targeted in recent raids. Local prosecutors have charged six operators with felony drug charges, but dismissed charges against one.

Also last Friday, the mayor of Cudahy and two other city officials were arrested on federal charges they took bribes to support the opening of a dispensary in the city. Mayor David Silva and two city council members are accused of accepting $15,000 in cash from an informant working with the FBI. They're looking at up to 10 years in prison each. The city has a temporary moratorium on dispensaries, which will probably be renewed later this year.

On Monday, a bill to regulate and tax medical marijuana statewide died in Sacramento. Sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Assembly Bill 2312, would have created a state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Enforcement to license and regulate industry enterprises. But the bill ran into opposition from some legislators over its provision requiring localities to allow dispensaries unless they are voted down in a referendum. When Ammiano amended the bill to allow local officials to ban dispensaries, the bill began to lose favor among some medical marijuana advocates. Ammiano said he didn't have the votes to get it out of committee, but that a committee will study the bill this summer and he will reintroduce it next year.

On Tuesday, Yuba County supervisors approved the introduction of amendments to the county's public nuisance ordinance for medical marijuana. But while the county is still fine-tuning its ordinance, local growers said it is ignoring critical issues, such as a collective grows and are threatening legal action if the county doesn't move faster. The amendments are supposed to be voted on at the board's July 10 meeting, but that may not happen after one supervisor said more work was needed.

Also on Tuesday, hundreds of unhappy medical marijuana advocates piled into the Lake County supervisors' meeting to protest a pending medical marijuana ordinance. The multitude created a log-jam at the Lakeport courthouse security station, causing the hearing to be delayed until July. The crowd cheered when they learned the hearing was rescheduled for a larger venue. The hearing will be held July 9 in the fairgrounds' theater in Lakeport.

Colorado

On Tuesday, Fort Collins officials announced that an initiative to repeal a ban on dispensaries had qualified for the November ballot. Organizers needed 4,214 valid voter signatures, and election officials stopped counting at 4,302 with 743 more signatures unchecked. They had turned in more than 9,000 signatures last week. The city attorney's office will now draft language for the initiative at the next meeting of the city council on July 17. Last year, voters in the city approved the ban; this year, they will now have a chance to change their minds.

Montana

Last Friday, Montana Republicans approved a resolution calling for regulated medical marijuana. Republicans in the state legislature were responsible for gutting the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law last year, but the new position is that state Republicans would "support action by the next legislature to create a workable and realistic regulatory structure." Montana Democrats a week earlier approved a change in their platform saying they supported access for those who need medical marijuana.

New Hampshire

On Wednesday, the state Senate fell short in a bid to override a veto of the medical marijuana bill passed earlier by the legislature. As he did in 2009, Gov. John Lynch (D) vetoed it, and as in 2009, proponents were unable to get enough votes to override.

Vermont

Last Friday, state officials received four applications from potential dispensary operators. State officials are not revealing who the applicants are and where they want to operate, saying they consider that information confidential. The first dispensaries could be operating by the end of the year, but their locations and identities would be revealed when they seek local approvals.

Washington

On Tuesday, the Tacoma City Council heard testimony about a proposal to allow dispensaries and collective grows to operate in the city. Nearly 11 months after the council issued a moratorium on business licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries, Tuesday's hearing gave the public a chance to weigh in on a zoning framework that since has been formulated to allow such businesses, but regulate them. About a dozen people spoke, most in favor of the proposal. The proposal would allow collective gardens in the city's industrial zones and in certain downtown and mixed-use zones. That essentially would concentrate such operations in Tacoma’s port area and along South Tacoma Way. Dispensaries would be allowed in city zoning districts where commercial uses now are allowed.

Uruguayan Government May Sell Marijuana in Proposed Legalization System

Members of the Uruguayan government said last Wednesday they plan to introduce a bill that would allow the government to sell marijuana. Only the government would be allowed to sell it, and only to registered users.

Barrio Sur, Montevideo, Uruguay (wikimedia.org)
According to the Associated Press, government officials told reporters in Montevideo that the move is aimed at weakening crime in the country by taking profits away from drug dealers and keeping marijuana users from going to dealers who peddle other, harder drugs.

"We're shifting toward a stricter state control of the distribution and production of this drug," said Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro. "It's a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself."

Possession of marijuana has never been a criminal offense in Uruguay, but its illicit sale has benefited criminals.

Some Uruguayan media reports said that money from marijuana sales would go to drug rehabilitation, while others said people who purchased too much marijuana would have to undergo treatment. But the government spokesman did not address those issues.

Some Uruguayans have expressed skepticism about buying their weed from the government.

"People who consume are not going to buy it from the state," said Natalia Pereira, 28, adding that she smokes marijuana occasionally. "They're going to be mistrust buying it from a place where you have to register and they can typecast you."

"The main argument for this is to keep addicts from dealing and reaching (crack-like) substances" such as base paste, said Juan Carlos Redin a psychologist who works with drug addicts in Montevideo. "Some studies conclude that a large number of base paste consumers first looked for milder drugs like marijuana and ended with freebase," he told the AP.

But other drug rehabilitation experts booed the idea. Guillermo Castro, head of psychiatry at the Hospital Britanico in Montevideo told the AP marijuana is a gateway to stronger drugs.

"In the long-run, marijuana is still poison," Castro said.  "If it's going to be openly legalized, something that is now in the hands of politics, it's important that they explain to people what it is and what it produces," he said. "I think it would much more effective to educate people about drugs instead of legalizing them."

If Uruguay were to move forward with government pot sales, it would be in line with the reformist trend percolating across Latin America. Tired of years of violence and prisons stuffed with drug offenders, governments in the region have moved away from "drug war" policies and are embracing a more tolerant approach.

In fact, it was then Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle who became the first sitting head of state to advocate drug legalization back in 2000. Batlle was a member of the long-ruling Colorado Party, but the current government, headed by President Jose Mujica, is the left-leaning Broad Front.

Montevideo
Uruguay

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Bill

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) last Thursday made good on his threat to veto a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 409, approved by the legislature. Lynch did the same thing to a similar medical marijuana bill passed by the legislature in 2009.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (wikipedia.org)
The legislature will now attempt to override the veto. The Senate and House will both vote on the override on Wednesday. In 2009, the House voted by more than two-thirds to override the veto, but the effort came up two votes short in the Senate. [UPDATE: The governor's veto was sustained on Wednesday.]

In a lengthy veto statement, Lynch explained his reasoning, but not before first expressing his "personal compassion for those who suffer from debilitating medical conditions who wish to use marijuana to alleviate their symptoms and the side effects of medical treatment."

Lynch noted that lawmakers had attempted to address his concerns about medical marijuana, but "this new legislation will not ensure the limited use of marijuana for medical purposes." Because the number of potential marijuana cultivation sites is "virtually unlimited," the result would be "the proliferation of marijuana for unlawful use."

Lynch also noted that "law enforcement has serious concerns" about "unauthorized use" of marijuana. Although the bill requires that grow locations be registered with the state, police are not granted routine information about who has registered, and they don't like that. Police also don't like that the inspection and oversight of medical marijuana grows is left in the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Lynch also objected to a provision in the bill allowing medical marijuana use by minors. He was "very concerned" that allowing seriously ill kids to use medical marijuana would "downplay the perceived risk of the use of this drug and lead to increased adolescent use."

And because "there are many types of marijuana with different degrees of potency," Lynch was concerned that the lack of restrictions on amount and frequency of use could lead to "significant health dangers," although it is unclear just what those dangers are.

"I continue to believe that the most effective manner in which to facilitate the safe and controlled use of marijuana for medical purposes is to distribute the drug like any other controlled substance through a regulated prescription system," Lynch concluded. "I recognize that such a system is unlikely as long as marijuana use for medicinal purposes remains illegal under federal law. As well intentioned as the efforts reflected in SB 409 are, I cannot support establishing a system for the use of medical marijuana that poses risks to the patient, lacks adequate oversight and funding, and risks the proliferation of a serious drug."

But the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford) said he would continue to seek support to override the governor's veto.

"This is a limited, responsible bill, and it’s designed to protect some of our state's most desperately ill citizens," Forsythe said. "SB 409 has gained momentum and support throughout the legislative process, and the result of our hard work is a bill the House and Senate should be proud to pass into law."

Patients and their family members don't want to wait any longer, either. Ted Wright of Tuftonboro, whose wife Cindy has been fighting breast cancer for 18 years, urged legislators to override the veto.

"Despite the governor's unfortunate veto, there's no reason patients like Cindy should have to wait another day for medical marijuana to be a legal option," Wright said.

Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed, saying, "Governor Lynch has chosen to bury his head in the sand on this issue, but ultimately it will be legislators who decide the fate of patients, and they know their constituents will be watching."

Concord, NH
United States

It's Nail-Biting Time for the Oregon Marijuana Initiatives [FEATURE]

In Oregon, two separate marijuana regulation and legalization initiatives that appeared poised to make the ballot a month ago are now on pins and needles after having unprecedented numbers of voter signatures invalidated by state election officials. With just two weeks to go before the July 6 deadline to hand in signatures, both campaigns need to come up with tens of thousands of signatures in a hurry.

Mt. Hood, northern Oregon
The two measures are the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) initiative, which would allow for the legal cultivation and sale of marijuana, and the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative (OMPI) constitutional amendment, which would give Oregonians the constitutional right to possess marijuana. OCTA needs 87,213 valid signatures to make the ballot, while the OMPI needs 116,284, having a higher threshold because it is a constitutional amendment.

At the end of May, both campaigns turned in enough signatures to qualify for early verification by the secretary of state's office. They achieved that goal by turning in enough raw signatures to meet their respective targets -- and then some. OCTA turned in 108,000 signatures and OMPI turned in 122,000, putting them well within range of qualifying if they got the typical invalidation rate of 30% to 35%.

But this week, election officials announced a real shocker. According to the Secretary of State's office, not only did neither initiative have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, but both were seeing signatures invalidating at record high levels.

OCTA qualified only 55,869 signatures and OMPI qualified only 63,804. That means OCTA needs another 32,000 valid signatures and OMPI needs another 53,000.

Based on the raw numbers, both initiatives had signature approval rates of around 50%, although the official figure is slightly higher because election officials threw some signatures out at the beginning. For OCTA the official rate was 58.5%, and for OMPI the official rate was 54.1%.

Still, "things are looking pretty good" despite the sucker punch from election officials, said OCTA chief proponent Paul Stanford. "We've collected another 40,000 signatures since the early deadline and now have 140,000."

OCTA is getting a boost from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, which represents 19,000 workers in Oregon and southwest Washington. The union has endorsed OCTA and is putting some muscle behind the effort.

"From retail to manufacturing to health care, we recognize that a vibrant hemp and cannabis industry in Oregon will create thousands of family-wage, sustainable jobs across the entire state," said union President Dan Clay.

"They're helping us out," said Stanford. "They have access to the state Democratic Party voter access network, and we were able to use that to do a huge mailing to 12,000 activists. We decided to target the people identified as the most progressive and who had not missed a vote in the last six years. And then we robocalled them -- we only mailed to people we had telephone numbers for. We got 9,355 people who said they would sign, and we think that can turn into an additional 10,000 to 25,000 signatures."

OCTA is also tightening its procedures, Stanford said. "We're screening our signatures much better now, we're checking in with every single petitioner. We're closely scrutinizing every incoming sheet," he said.

The path to the ballot is a bit steeper for OMPI, but the campaign said it would carry on.

"Because of the historically low and unusually low validity rate as determined by the Oregon Secretary of State's office, getting on the ballot is going to present an even larger challenge in the last three weeks, but we will continue to gather signatures and will challenge the decisions invalidating signatures," said Robert Wolfe, one of the three proponents behind the OMPI. "Mathematically, we can still do this despite the unusually low validation rate."

But while Wolfe maintained the OMPI could still gather enough new signatures to qualify for the ballot, most of his energy seemed focused on challenging the invalidated signatures.

"First, we have to recover copies of every sheet they've worked on to see which signatures were invalidated and why and then to double check their work," he said. "We have other options, up to and including filing for injunctive relief in circuit court."

The lowest validity rates recorded in Oregon initiatives have been 65%, and Wolfe said the OMPI had programmed its signature drive to get enough valid signatures even if the validity rate reached that historic low.

"To come in at 54% was a real shock," he said.

Oregon initiative campaigners are facing a tougher stance from election officials, for reasons that don't necessarily have much to do with marijuana. Plagued by repeated anti-tax initiatives filed by arch-conservatives in the past two decades, progressive state officials have continually tightened signature-gathering and -validation requirements as a means to fend them off. But those measures are making it harder for everybody.

"Over the past few years, the Secretary of State's office has enacted rules and procedures that seek to exclude every possible signature from being counted. That disenfranchises a lot of voters," Wolfe said. "I think those are progressive officials, and progressives should seek to include every possible signature, to honor the intent of voters who signed. I don't think they're acting in the interest of democracy."

"There have been a lot of changes and increasing restrictions on way the petitioning works," concurred Stanford. "We had 9,000 signatures invalidated because the petitioner's badges had not been certified."

Stanford said the OCTA would make a final push over the 4th of July holiday. "We have 140,000 signatures now and we think we need 160,000, but we think we'll have 170,000 by the deadline," he said.

Marijuana legalization initiatives are already on the ballot in Colorado and Washington. Will Oregon make three? In two weeks, we'll see.

OR
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

It's mainly news from California this week, with DEA and LAPD raids leading the way, but also snippets from Colorado and Montana, and the DEA head on the hot seat. Let's get to it:

National

On Wednesday, DEA administrator Michelle Leonhardt ran into tough questioning (go to 47:15) at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on DEA oversight. After Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) repeatedly and fruitlessly asked her whether meth or heroin is worse than marijuana, the best she could come up with was "all illegal drugs are bad." Nor would she concede under repeated questioning from Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN) that marijuana causes less harm than meth. Cohen also went after Leonhardt on medical marijuana.

"Have you ever seen a person who had cancer and used marijuana to alleviate their condition?" Cohen asked. "I have, and would you agree it has some benefit for somebody who is dying, that marijuana is the only thing that makes him eat and smile according to his 80-year-old mother?"

"That's between him and his doctor," Leonhardt replied.

"Then why does the DEA take the position that medical marijuana is wrong?" Cohen asked before Leonhardt got a reprieve because his time was up.

California

Last Thursday, the DEA raided the G3 Holistic dispensary in Upland and federal prosecutors issued indictments for six people in connection with the raid.The folks behind G3 had operated three dispensaries, but shut down two after being warned to close by the feds eight months ago. Three operators of the chain as well as three workers involved in an Ontario grow warehouse that supplied it were taken into custody. All are charged with  conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, possession of pot with intent to distribute it, and maintaining a drug location. They all face up to life in prison if convicted. The defendants were due in court in Riverside today.

As of last Thursday, there are no more dispensaries in Whittier. Whittier Hope Collective shut its doors after receiving a threat letter from federal prosecutors June 5. The Whittier City Council on a 3-2 vote in October 2009 approved a conditional-use permit allowing Whittier Hope Collective to operate. Nearly a year later the dispensary opened. The collective even joined the Whittier Area Chamber of Commerce. Now, its 5,000 members will have to go elsewhere.

Last Tuesday, Lake County supervisors directed county staff to draft an interim urgency ordinance restricting medical marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas of the county. Staff will take under consideration comments from the Board of Supervisors, the public, and the Lake County Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Advisory Board. The supervisors are expected to consider the draft ordinance next week.

Last Friday, the IRS announced it had seized the bank accounts of a Sacramento dispensary. The DEA had raided the El Camino Wellness Center earlier in the week. The IRS said it seized $870,000 from bank accounts in what it described as a money-laundering investigation. The seizures underscore efforts by federal authorities to crack down on dispensaries by employing laws traditionally used to target money transfers by narcotics traffickers. The IRS referred to the dispensary as an "illegal marijuana store." El Camino opened in 2008 and last year became the first Sacramento dispensary issued a permit under a city regulatory program for medical marijuana outlets. The city is still collecting voter-approved taxes on local dispensaries, amounting to $1.1 million between July 2011 and March of this year.

Also last Friday, a Shasta County medical marijuana collective threatened to sue the county over its ban on dispensaries. The Medicine Man Collective Spiritual Center Corporation filed a claim earlier in the week saying the ban will have robbed them of $17.2 million by 2013. It is demanding a meeting with county officials to revise the rules, and says it will seek that amount in court if the county doesn't comply. The collective claims it had served some 20,000 patients in the past. County supervisors passed an ordinance banning pot collectives indefinitely in the unincorporated part of the county in December, and they also passed the county's first-ever ordinance limiting growing. The county counsel has 45 days from the date the claim was filed to accept or reject it.

On Monday, a San Diego initiative to regulate dispensaries failed to make the ballot. Citizens for Patient Rights and the Patient Care Association needed to gather 62,000 valid signatures to qualify, but collected fewer than 20,000. Proponents said the federal crackdown and prosecutions by San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis had depleted dispensary ranks and impeded the flow of money needed to raise the signatures. The same groups last year collected more than 40,000 signatures to successfully repeal a city ordinance that medical marijuana dispensary directors and patients believed was too restrictive. They plan to pursue another initiative or to work with the new city council and mayor to pass regulations after the fall election.

Also on Monday, activists in Del Mar asked the city council to adopt a dispensary ordinance after collecting signatures from well over 10% of Del Mar voters. The Patient Care Association led the signature drive and hopes the council will immediately pass the Compassionate Use Dispensary Regulation and Taxation Ordinance in order to serve medical pot patients in Del Mar sooner rather than possibly later. But Del Mar officials opted to instead receive a report on the measure. By doing so, the council will have the choice to either adopt the ordinance within 10 days of receiving the report, to be issued by mid-July, or order an election. The Patient Care Association expects to qualify ballot measures in Solana Beach and Lemon Grove by the end of the week and in Encinitas by the end of the month. The proposed compassionate use dispensary ordinance would impose a 2.5 percent sales tax on medical pot to benefit the city's general fund.

Also on Monday, the Oaksterdam Cannabis and Hemp Museum announced plans to relocate. The museum, which is affiliated with Oaksterdam University, is being forced out of its present location by the April DEA and IRS raids on Oaksterdam properties, and must relocate by the end of the month. The relocation is a result of concerns raised by the City of Oakland about having the publicly accessible museum in a shared space with a downtown Oakland medical cannabis dispensary. The museum has been closed since the raids.

Also on Monday, the San Francisco City Attorney filed a brief defending the rights of local governments in California to issue permits authorizing medical cannabis collectives to serve their patients, urging the state Supreme Court to reverse a Court of Appeal holding that such regulation is substantially preempted by federal law. The amicus brief authored by Dennis Herrera and joined by Santa Cruz County Counsel Dana McRae argues that discretionary permitting, an integral element in planning and land use policy, is particularly essential for local regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries. The appellate court's October 4, 2011 ruling in Pack v. Long Beach, Herrera and McRae contend, wrongly hinders the ability of local governments to protect public health and safety effectively, and to enact policy innovations tailored to local needs.

Also on Monday, the San Leandro City Council again punted on regulating dispensaries and grows. The council agreed to take up the issue again next month. A moratorium is in effect until September 30, but city staff has warned the council it should have an ordinance in place before then. The council has been hesitating, waiting to see what happens with a dispensary regulation bill in Sacramento.

On Tuesday, Tulare County supervisors voted to oppose a statewide dispensary regulation bill over fears the regulations could limit local control of marijuana dispensaries and grow sites. The bill, Assembly Bill 2312, sponsored by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would require commercial marijuana growers to register with a new Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement, and counties and cities could tax marijuana if local voters agree. It passed the Assembly last month, and is set for a Senate committee hearing next week.

Also on Tuesday, the LAPD raided two dispensaries in Woodland Hills because of "illegal sales" of marijuana. Witnesses identified the dispensaries as Green Joy and Green Magic, both on Ventura Boulevard. The raids were carried out by the Topanga Narcotics Division. The LAPD has been busy in the San Fernando Valley, with the department claiming that it had wiped out all cannabis stores in its Devonshire Division.

Also on Tuesday, Long Beach police raided a downtown dispensary just hours before the city council was to hear a report on enforcement of its four-month-old dispensary ban. Hit was THC Downtown, which had applied for a permit through a lottery process (while the city still handed out permits), failed to win the lottery, but opened anyway. Police said three employees and two security guards would face misdemeanor charges of violating the city's ban on dispensaries that were not permitted.

On Wednesday, patients and activists rallied in Sacramento to protest last week's raid on the El Camino Wellness Center. "The Obama administration is betraying patients and lying to the public," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), one of the groups organizing Wednesday's protest. "The president and the attorney general have said publicly that the Justice Department is not targeting state-compliant medical marijuana dispensaries, but that's exactly what it's doing." Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder told members of the House Judiciary committee that, "We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law." However, by all accounts, El Camino was acting in full conformity with local and state laws.

Colorado

On Monday, the Commerce City City Council approved regulations under which medical marijuana businesses must apply for a conditional permit, and then for a business license. The program goes into effect July 1. License applicants must sign waivers that release the city from any liability for injuries or damages if state or federal agencies seek arrest or prosecution. The ordinance creates rules for regulating dispensaries, cultivation facilities, production and manufacturing of medical marijuana products.

Montana

Earlier this month, state Democrats added support for medical marijuana to their party platform. The new plank says that, because voters approved the use of medical marijuana, the Democratic Party supports "the right of qualified patients with a medical condition where marijuana is appropriate (to) have safe access to medical marijuana." Party spokesmen said the measure didn't spark much debate at the party convention. Some 61% of voters approved the Montana Medical Marijuana Act in 2004, but a combination of federal raids and changes by the Republican-led state legislature have left the program in tatters.

Washington Marijuana Legalization Initiative Ahead in New Poll

An initiative to regulate and legalize marijuana in Washington state was leading by 13 points in a Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday. The poll had support for the initiative, I-502, at 50%, with 37% opposed and 13% undecided.

Seattle skyline
The poll is good, but not great, news for New Approach Washington, the high-powered group behind the initiative campaign. It shows support two points higher than a similar poll in January, but not high enough for the campaign to have much of a comfort zone.

The conventional wisdom among initiative watchers is that initiatives should be polling at 60% or above going in because opposition during the campaign season is bound to shave some points away by election day. That means that while New Approach Washington can take succor in the lead it holds, it still has its work cut out for it to cross the finish line victorious.

Looking at the cross tabs, support for legalization was higher among men (55%) than women (46%) and all age groups except the over-65 had support higher than 50%. Somewhat surprisingly, support was highest among those aged 46 to 65 (55%), followed by those aged 30 to 45 (54%) and those aged 18 to 29 (52%).

A large partisan divide has also emerged, with legalization supported by a whopping 70% of Democrats, but only 22% of Republicans. Independents came in at 54% in support. And although Washington's minority population is small, non-whites are supporting legalization at a higher rate (60%) than whites (49%). 

Public Policy Polling surveyed 1,073 Washington voters from through automated telephone interviews from June 14 to June 17. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.0%. This poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

WA
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

After a brief hiatus, the DEA wrecking ball was back at work in California this week. Also, an important court victory in Colorado, a couple of court losses in Oregon, and Vermont is accepting dispensary applications. And there's a whole bunch more, too. Let's get to it:

California

Last Wednesday, Kern County dispensaries said they would try to overturn Measure G, a ballot measure approved by 69% of voters a day earlier. Measure G will require dispensaries to move to unincorporated areas of the county and also specifies that they must be a mile away from schools, churches, public parks, daycares, and each other. Dispensary operators said they are weighing their options for a legal challenge.

Last Thursday, the Humboldt County Planning Commission voted to revoke the permit for a Myrtletown dispensary. City planning staff said the Humboldt County Collective had failed to meet certain requirements outlined in its conditional use permit, including failing to widen a driveway and to provide financial information proving the collective is a nonprofit. The April arrest of collective president Bill Byron, 42, in Pennsylvania on suspicion of marijuana trafficking also didn't help. Byron has since stepped down as president. Now, the matter moves to the county Board of Supervisors.

Last Friday, an LA City Council panel gave its approval to the "gentle ban" that would shut down dispensaries all across the city but allow patients and collectives to have gardens. The council's Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 to recommend the proposal by Councilmen Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander to shut down dispensaries pending a state Supreme Court decision on the legality of permitting them. The panel also voted against a competing measure from Councilman Paul Koretz that would have allowed 100 dispensaries to stay open under strict regulation. Next comes a vote of the full council, but a date for that hasn't been set yet.

Also last Friday, Imperial Beach activists handed in signatures for a Safe Access Ordinance initiative in the city. Activists from San Diego Americans for Safe Access and the LGBT non-profit Canvass for a Cause handed in 1,555 valid signatures, or roughly 15% of all registered voters in the community. They collected more than 2,600 signatures, then verified their authenticity internally.

On Monday, DEA agents raided the El Camino Wellness dispensary in Sacramento. The dispensary was among a group targeted by the US Attorney in Sacramento last fall, and the owner of the building in which it was located had been the recipient of a letter from federal prosecutors warning her property could be seized. The DEA raiders were jeered by protestors who mobilized on hearing of the raid.

Also on Monday, a Lake County board approved a motion recommending guidelines for the number of plants allowable on small parcels. The Lake County Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Advisory Committee Monday approved a motion recommending allowing no more than three two plants uncovered outdoors for parcels smaller than a quarter of an acre, and up to six uncovered plants for parcels between one-quarter and one-half acre in size. The measure was approved on an 8-1 vote and now goes to the Board of Supervisors.

On Tuesday, the Lake Elsinore city clerk announced that an initiative campaign was underway to seek the legalization of dispensaries in the city. Backers of the initiative published a public notice last month, so signature gathering should get underway soon. The petition asks residents if they want an election to be held so voters could decide whether to approve an ordinance that would allow a limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries. The proposed ordinance would establish how such medical marijuana operations, also referred to in the petition as cooperatives, would be taxed, regulated and monitored. The city imposed a ban on dispensaries in 2010. An earlier initiative campaign fell short.

Colorado

On Monday, an El Paso County jury acquitted a medical marijuana grower of drug cultivation charges. Elisa Kappelmann, 52, had been looking at up to 12 years in prison on state charges after being arrested by Colorado Springs police in connection with a grow she was operating. Police said she was not in compliance with Colorado Department of Public Health documentation requirements. But defense attorney Robert Corry argued that Kappelmann had physicians' recommendations and caregiver forms for each of her 22 patients and was within her plant count even under the strictest interpretations of the laws. After six days of deliberations, the jury voted to acquit. Corry called the trial a "failed political test case" and urged El Paso County prosecutors to rethink their interpretation of the medical marijuana law.

Also on Monday, the Dacono City Council voted to ban medical marijuana businesses. The 4-2 vote will close three dispensaries, which have a little more than six months to leave town. Dacono has regulated dispensaries since 2009, although it's had a moratorium barring new ones since 2010. Angry dispensary operators and patients berated the council and vowed to file initiative petitions to get the ban overturned.

Massachusetts

Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of medical marijuana opponents who argued the likely November ballot question was misleading. The Massachusetts Prevention Alliance had filed a petition against the question in May, but it was rejected by Attorney General Martha Coakley's office. Now Coakley and Secretary of State William Galvin must rewrite the "yes" section of the ballot question and get the new wording approved by the court. Opponents had challenged even the use of the term "medical marijuana," arguing that it isn't recognized as medicine under federal law, but the high court was okay with the term.

New York

On Wednesday, the New York Assembly passed its medical marijuana bill on a vote of 90-50. That's the third time a medical marijuana bill has passed the Democratically-controlled Assembly, but it has always been blocked from a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year is expected to be no different.

Oregon

Last Wednesday, a Washington County dispensary operator pleaded guilty to unlawful delivery of marijuana for payment and was sentenced to probation. Local police arrested Terry Spaunhorst, 54, the operator of Serene Dreams Medical Greens in Hillsboro. Prosecutors said Spaunhorst sold marijuana, a clear violation of Oregon's medical marijuana law. Last year, authorities raided another Washington County dispensary, Wake 'n Bake Cannabis Lounge in Aloha and convicted its owner on similar charges with similar results. A third dispensary, the Human Collective in Tigard remains open.

Last Friday, a Grants Pass man became the first registered Oregon grower to be convicted on federal drug trafficking charges. Jason Nelson, 36, was one of four medical marijuana growers from Southwestern Oregon who pooled their harvests and made monthly shipments from Portland to Boston in pods loaded with furniture bought from Goodwill. The other three faced state charges. Federal prosecutors crowed over the conviction and said they had "one more bit of evidence out there so people can be thinking critically whether or not this is what they want in their communities."

Vermont                   

Last Thursday, the Department of Public Safety announced that dispensary applications are now available. The department will authorize up to four medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Vermont based on a competitive scoring process. Applications are now being accepted, and the closing date to apply is June 22, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. A $2,500 non-refundable application fee must accompany all applications. To view the rules for the Vermont Marijuana Program (VMP) and to obtain a dispensary application, go to the Vermont Criminal Information Center.

Washington, DC

On Tuesday, city officials announced that all four dispensaries are free to pursue building and other permits. All four had previously advanced through the city licensing process, and three of the four have already won necessary approval from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. But it will still be months before patients are able to obtain their medicine in the nation's capital; medical grows approved earlier have not yet planted crops, and the dispensaries will not have any product until the grows harvest.

Marijuana Legalization Breaks 60% in Colorado Poll

Amendment 64 billboard (regulatemarijuana.org)
In November, voters in Colorado will decide whether to approve Amendment 64, a state-wide ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana like alcohol. A new Rasmussen poll released Monday suggests the initiative could be well on the way to victory.

In its June 6 survey of likely voters, Rasmussen found support for marijuana legalization at 61%. More strikingly, only 27% opposed legalization, with 12% undecided. Respondents were asked whether they supported "legalizing marijuana and regulating it in a way similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are regulated today."

The conventional wisdom among initiative watchers is that initiatives need to be polling at 60% or above at the beginning of the campaign to have a chance of winning. Veteran observers note that opponents of an initiative are always able to peel away some support with negative campaigning late in the game.

But in Colorado, not only is support for pot legalization strong, it is trending upward. A December 2011 Public Policy Polling survey had support at 49%, with 40% saying it should remain illegal.

Marijuana legalization also had more support than either major party presidential candidate. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney garnered 45% support. How the politics of marijuana in Colorado will affect the presidential race there remains to be seen.

Rasmussen conducted phone interviews with 500 likely Colorado voters. The poll's margin of error is +/-4.5%.

CO
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, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 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, Pill Testing, 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, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School