Minnesota Senate to vote on medical marijuana bill Tuesday

By Patrick Condon

Legalization of medical marijuana is head­ed for a vote by the full state Senate on Tuesday.

The proposal, which would allow marijuana to be used for a broad range of ailments and set up a statewide system of dispensaries, cleared its last Senate hurdle on Monday. The Senate Finance committee approved the bill 14-7.

“We have the votes to pass it,” predicted Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the bill’s chief sponsor.

The effort for legalization had been in limbo for much of the session, stymied by a powerful set of opponents: Gov. Mark Dayton and the law enforcement community. But shortly after Dayton told legislators to “quit hiding behind their desks” on the issue, the proposal was revived and began racing through committees, picking up momentum to make Minnesota the 22nd state in the nation to legalize some version of medical marijuana.

Should the bill pass the Senate, it would still face a serious obstacle in the House, where a much narrower proposal is being considered. The House version would tightly regulate medical marijuana, restricting its use to patients eligible for a clinical trial. Vaporized marijuana could be used only in the presence of a health provider. There would be only one provider and no system of dispensaries. Law enforcement and Dayton have appeared willing to consider the House bill, but remain opposed to the Senate version.

The Senate bill would allow patients with qualifying conditions to get a doctor’s prescription for up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Eligible conditions would include can­cer, HIV/AIDS, glau­co­ma, ep­i­lep­sy, post-trau­ma­tic stress dis­or­der and sev­er­al con­di­tions that cause chron­ic pain. Pa­tients would not be able to smoke mar­i­jua­na, but could use a vaporizer to inhale fumes. The could also ingest the drug in pill or oil form.

State budget officials estimate the state would have to spend about $3 million in 2015 to implement the Senate’s version of legalization. Those costs would be covered by fees related to purchase of the drug. The state budg­et of­fice an­aly­sis pre­dict­ed about 35,000 Min­ne­so­tans would par­tici­pate in the new program, a figure that Dibble contended was too high.

Full article here

Washington State Court of Appeals bans medical marijuana stores

Source: Samefacts.Com

By Mark Kleiman

I completely failed to see this one coming.

A brief history lesson:

Washington State has had a medical marijuana law since 1998. In 2011, the legislature passed a bill allowing the creation of “collective gardens” (aka stores) to grow cannabis for patients registered with the state, and regulating those outlets in various ways: all members of the collectives would have had to register with the state. The governor used her line-item veto to take out major provisions of that bill, including the part that would have created the patient registry.

Until now, the prevailing view has been that the permission to open stores was valid law even though the regulations designed to control them had been zapped, leaving Washington with a booming, and virtually unregulated and untaxed, medical cannabis industry; a everyone says, Seattle has more “medical outlets” than it does Starbucks locations. Some players in that industry were among the strongest opponents of the I-502 initiative that legalized non-medical sales.

Once I-502 had passed, its proponents and administrators started to worry about how a regulated and taxed commercial market could compete with a wide-open, but untaxed and unregulated, quasi-medical system. There were efforts in the legislature this year to rein in the “gardens,” but the industry (speaking, of course, in the name of “the patients”) and a partisan split in the legislature made it impossible to pass anything. Battle was expected to be joined again in January, with the threat of federal intervention lurking in the background.

In the meantime, the town of Kent had passed a local ordinance banning medical outlets. Various industry players sued, citing what was left of the 2011 law. But now the Washington State Court of Appeals (the second-tier court) has ruled that the governor’s partial veto makes all the collective gardens illegal, because a legal collective garden must serve registered patients and there is no patient registry. Therefore, Kent is at liberty to ban what was – according to the court – an illegal activity in the first place. All that’s left of the medical marijuana law is permission for individuals with medical recommendations to grow their own: if charged with a violation of state law for production or possession (but not, apparently, sale), a medical recommendation creates an affirmative defense.

Presumably most of the localities that have collective gardens, including Seattle, will continue to let them operate, especially since the commercial outlets won’t even start to open until sometime around the end of June or early July.

There may be an additional layer of complexity: the Liquor Board planned to allow newly-licensed growers to bring some of their existing cannabis plants into the legal system, since otherwise there would be nothing for the new stores to sell. If newly-licensed growers have to grow new product from seed starting late this spring, the shelves will be bare until fall at the earliest. Whether the new ruling puts a monkey-wrench in that machinery remains to be seen, as does the effect of the ruling on the bargaining over a new law next year. (Or will the governor call the legislature into special session to give it another try this year?)

Never a dull moment.

Oregon – Clackamas County Ban

By Mary Harbarger

The Clackamas County commissioners unanimously adopted a one-year ban Thursday on medical marijuana facilities.

The moratorium will likely put several existing dispensaries out of business. The commissioners never wavered in voting for the moratorium, but did invite advocates and dispensary staff to work with the county to craft time, place and manner restrictions to be enforced once the moratorium is lifted.

The moratorium option comes through a law signed in March by Gov. John Kitzhaber that allows local governments to restrict medical marijuana facilities on the grounds of time, place and manner of operation.

Local governments can buy a year to craft the restrictions by imposing a moratorium before May 1. More than a dozen counties, including Washington County, have taken advantage of the law. Most cities in Clackamas County also passed temporary bans.

The Clackamas County commissioners blasted the Oregon Legislature for leaving it up to cities and counties to enact moratoriums.

“I think the Legislature were a bunch of wimps,” Commissioner Jim Bernard said. “They didn’t decide this on their own when they had the opportunity to do that.”

Bernard and most of his fellow commissioners conceded that medical marijuana does seem to benefit some patients, and Oregon is likely to legalize recreational marijuana in the next few years.

But, they also insisted that the moratorium was important to help assuage the fears of county residents who oppose marijuana use in any form.

“There’s a fear that people have that we need to figure out a way to resolve it,” Bernard said.

About 40 people showed up to Thursday morning’s business meeting to testify. Most were patients or dispensary owners who opposed the ordinance.

“I am not asking for no moratorium. I am asking for businesses that are licensed and following the rules to continue operating,” said Desirea Duvall, a manager at Maritime Cafe, a dispensary that’s been operating near Gladstone for about 2.5 years.

For more click here

If You Support Legal Marijuana, Memorize These 13 Stats –

Huffington Post

Regardless of your feelings about legalizing marijuana, it’s hard to deny that legal weed would be a bonanza for cash-strapped states, just as tobacco and alcohol already are.

With Colorado and Washington starting to tax and regulate recreational weed sales, and medical marijuana legal in 18 other states, we can finally start to put some hard numbers on the industry’s value.

Numbers like:

$1.53 billion: The amount the national legal marijuana market is worth, according to a Nov. 2013 report from ArcView Market Research, a San Francisco-based investor group focused on the marijuana industry.

$10.2 billion: The estimated amount the national legal marijuana market will be worth in five years, according to that same ArcView report.

$6.17 million: The amount of tax revenue collected in Colorado on legal marijuana sales in just the first two months of 2014.

$98 million: The total tax revenue that Colorado could reap in the fiscal year that begins in July, according to a recent budget proposal from Gov. John Hickenlooper.

$40 million: The amount of marijuana tax revenue Colorado is devoting to public school construction.

7,500-10,000: The estimated number of marijuana industry jobs that currently exist in Colorado, according to Michael Elliott, the Executive Director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association that advocates for responsible marijuana regulation.

$190 million: The amount in taxes and fees legal marijuana is projected to raise for the state of Washington over four years starting in mid-2015, according to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, an independent agency that advises the state government on the budget and tax revenue.

$105 million: The estimated annual sales tax revenue generated by medical marijuana dispensaries in California, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports legalization. $142.19 million: The estimated size of the medical marijuana market in Arizona in 2014, according to the ArcView Market Research report, up from $35.37 million last year. Arizona has a record 80 medical pot dispensaries currently open, with more expected to open this year, according to AZMarijuana.com.

$36 million: The amount of estimated tax revenue Maine would earn every year if it legalized and regulated marijuana, according to a 2013 estimate from the Marijuana Policy Project. Portland, Maine’s largest city, voted to legalize weed in November, and a grassroots campaign to get state legalization on the ballot in 2016 is underway.

$21.5 to $82 million: The amount of estimated tax revenue Rhode Island would earn every year if it legalized and regulated marijuana, according to an April 9 report from the non-profit organization Open Doors. Rhode Island legislators are considering a bill this session that would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

$134.6 million: The amount of estimated tax revenue Maryland would earn every year if it legalized and regulated marijuana, according to a 2014 estimate from the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a law legalizing medical marijuana on April 14, and state lawmakers are considering a bill this session to legalize weed for recreational purposes, too.

$17.4 billion: The estimated total amount that marijuana prohibition costs state and federal governments every year, according to a 2010 study by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron.

Las Vegas marijuana dispensary news

LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas City Council voted to move forward with allowing medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits, during council meeting Wednesday.

The council members directed staff to draft regulations for people to set up medical marijuana businesses, including growing, testing and cultivating the drug for medical purposes.

Some council members were hesitant to move forward.

“There’s no debate. Marijuana is addictive and harmful to brain development,” Mayor Pro-Tem Stavros Anthony said.

He and councilwoman Lois Tarkanian voted against the measure, along with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. However, Goodman was quick to make it clear she is not against medial marijuana in Las Vegas, but was against how the measure was proposed. The mayor wanted individual parts of the measure discussed and voted on.

In the end, a majority of council members just wanted to get the ball rolling.

“I’m growing a little impatient, mayor and council members. I feel we have larger priorities not only in our local communities but in the state and in the country,” councilman Steven Ross said.

Las Vegas City Council also voted to cut a fact finding period, or moratorium, in half. After two public hearings, city licensing and zoning guidelines are now expected to be before city leaders in early July instead of September. They will use these next few months to learn more information.

“It behooves each one of us to be totally educated and know what is going on.” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said.

The city is hosting two public meetings about where dispensaries should be allowed. The first meeting will be from 3 to 5 p.m. March 26 at 333 N. Rancho. The second meeting will be from 3 to 5 p.m. April 1 at the same location.

The Clark County Commission also made some major decisions for medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated parts of the county.

Commissioners laid out zoning regulations for dispensaries and growing operations. The next big step for the commission is deciding who gets a license to operate a marijuana business.

The county will accept business applications from April 16 through May 2. Following the application period, the commission will look at all the applications in what they are describing as a marathon meeting.

Nevada voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, but that law provided no legal way for patients to obtain the drug except to grow it themselves.

Lawmakers passed a law in 2013 that sets up a framework for distributing medical marijuana, although it allows cities and counties to impose moratoriums.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

DPH names medical marijuana program director -Massachusetts

The former chief operating officer of a Dorchester public health program will oversee the state’s medical marijuana program as its executive director.

Karen van Unen was introduced Monday by the state Department of Public Health as executive director of the program, and will play a major role in the selection of marijuana dispensary licensees.

According to the department, van Unen’s duties will include “overseeing all aspects of the medical marijuana program, from the inspection of dispensaries, to the creation of a patient and caregiver registration database that will be operational later this year.”

Van Unen was chief operating officer at DotWell in Dorchester, which coordinates community and public health programs for more than 40,000 individuals. She is also a board member and past president of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, and has consulted for DPH over the medical marijuana program’s development. On LinkedIn, she lists herself as a director of Children’s Hospital Boston from September 2000 to November 2004 and as a practice manager at Faulkner Breast Center for five years in the 1990s.

A selection committee convened by DPH plans this month to present to van Unen its final recommendations on registered marijuana dispensary applications. One hundred applicants are competing for up to 35 non-profit dispensary licenses under a program set up following passage of a voter referendum legalizing medical marijuana. State officials must award at least one but no more than five dispensaries per county.

The selection committee will recommend which dispensaries receive licenses, and van Unen will have final signoff on the recommendation, according to a DPH official.

The committee is reviewing and scoring applicants based on factors such as appropriateness of the site, geographical distribution of dispensaries, and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients while ensuring public safety, according to the department.

Also, applicants have been asked to demonstrate local support during the review process, and must show that they can comply with all municipal rules, regulations, ordinances and bylaws.
In a statement, DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said van Unen’s “management expertise in public health and commitment to safety and patient access will successfully guide the implementation of the Commonwealth’s medical marijuana program.”

Full article by Michael Norton here

Health Canada gives medical marijuana users advice on disposing of leftover stashes


OTTAWA – Users of medical marijuana will soon be prohibited from growing their own pot — and the federal government is suggesting they turn to their feline friends for help in properly disposing of leftover stashes.

Health Canada recommends blending marijuana with water and mixing it with cat litter before tossing it into regular household trash.

“The primary option is to break down the materials, mask the odour and dispose of it in the garbage,” department spokesman Sean Upton said in an emailed response to questions.

Health Canada has announced a complete reworking of the medical marijuana system — in part due to concerns about the risk of criminal infiltration.

Under the existing program, to be phased out by April 1, people like Jason Wilcox of Abbotsford, B.C., are issued licences to grow marijuana for their personal use to help ease the symptoms of painful conditions.

Wilcox and thousands of others who cultivate their own pot have until the end of March to render any remaining weed “unfit for use or consumption.”

Under the new system, only licensed producers will grow marijuana for postal distribution to patients whose health-care providers agree it is the appropriate treatment.

More than 30,000 people across the country are authorized to use the drug for medical purposes, and many have licences to produce their own strains of marijuana.

Internal government briefing notes released under the Access to Information Act say that such users in possession of homegrown plants as of April 1 will be violating the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, “which becomes a law enforcement issue.”

The order to destroy leftover pot is “ridiculous” and a “travesty,” said the HIV-positive Wilcox, who is licensed to grow marijuana that helps diminish painful side effects of treatment.

“It just goes to show what the government’s done with this whole program from Day 1,” he said.

“I personally believe my rights are being stepped on.”

Wilcox, 40, said he can grow the pot he needs for under $2 a gram, but faces paying as much as $12 a gram under the new system, which he can’t afford.

He is coy about what he will do after March 31.

“I’m not going to suggest that I’m going to incriminate myself in open media. That would be kind of silly,” he said. “I’m also not going to tell you that I’m going to conform to the law, either. I’m just telling you that I’m in the grey area.”

Wilcox says his current regimen has helped stabilize his health.

“I worry a lot for the patients that are a lot worse off, and the patients that don’t know the politics behind this. They don’t even know they have to destroy their medication. Some of them don’t even understand what’s going on.”

The briefing notes say Health Canada is working with Public Safety Canada and the RCMP on encouraging licence holders to dispose of their self-grown marijuana by the deadline.

Wilcox, who is helping spearhead a legal challenge of the new system, said he and others have received just one government letter outlining the changes.

A May 2012 RCMP intelligence report warned that organized criminal networks were taking advantage of the medical marijuana program to produce the drug and supply it to the illicit market.

Both the Mounties and Public Safety referred questions to Health Canada.

Upton said the new system will ensure medical marijuana “is produced under secure, sanitary and quality-controlled conditions” so as to “better protect the health, security and safety of all Canadians.”

Wilcox resents the notion he is involved in something unsafe or linked to gangsterism.

“I find that to be quite inflammatory.”