Releaf Magazine

Snoop to play Alaska show to thank them for legalizing weed

Snoop Dogg, the "Drop it Like it's Hot" hitmaker, has pledged to play a concert in Alaska if they vote to legalise marijuana on November 4, and insisted it isn't just "a bunch of thug dudes" wanting the drug decriminalized.

The rapper has pledged to perform a concert if the state decriminalise the drug - and he revealed he'll be "bringing some of that California" to mark the occasion.

Speaking to US TV star Charlo Greene on his GGN webcast, he said: "If we get y'all to vote yes on Proposition 2, Snoop Dogg is coming to Alaska to do a concert, a wellness retreat concert, and I'm bringing some of that California with me to celebrate."

Snoop - who was discussing the long-term initiative ahead of the state's vote on November 4 - added the mission to legalise marijuana was going beyond "a bunch of thug dudes" and becoming "multicultural".

He explained: "Now, we got people like yourself standing up. You show that it's multicultural.

"It's not just a bunch of thug dudes that's trying to push weed, but it's women, and they speak with intelligence and they speak from a right frame of mind.

Post to Twitter


Marijuana businesses pour money into politics to support friendly candidates

In this Sept. 25, 2014 photo, Tripp Keber, head of Denver-based Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, which makes pot-infused drinks, foods and other items, stands inside one of his edibles production kitchens at his manufacturing facility in Denver. Keber is among the entrepreneurs of the young U.S. marijuana industry who are taking another step into the mainstream, becoming political donors who use some of their profits to support cannabis-friendly candidates and ballot questions that could bring legal pot to more states. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

By The Associated Press, Herald-Tribune

DENVER — The entrepreneurs of the young U.S. marijuana industry are taking another step into the mainstream, becoming political donors who use some of their profits to support cannabis-friendly candidates and ballot questions that could bring legal pot to more states.

The political activity includes swanky fundraisers at Four Seasons hotels and art auctions at law firms. And members of Congress who once politely returned the industry’s contribution checks are now keeping them.

“We’re developing an industry here from the ground up. If we don’t contribute politically and get out there with the candidates, we can’t help shape what happens,” said Patrick McManamon, head of Cleveland-based Cannasure Insurance Services, which offers insurance to marijuana growers and dispensaries.

Medical marijuana businesses have been giving to candidates since the late 1990s. With the arrival of recreational pot in Colorado and Washington, the industry and its political influence are expanding rapidly.

Pot is now legal for medical or recreational purposes in 23 states and Washington, D.C. More marijuana measures will be on the November ballot in Oregon, Florida, Alaska and the nation’s capital, so many contributions are being funneled into those campaigns and the candidates who support them.

Compared with the donations of other industries or advocacy groups, the political spending by marijuana businesses is modest. But, said Tripp Keber, head of Denver-based Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, which makes pot-infused soda, food and lotion, “the word is out that the marijuana industry has money to give.”

Keber attended a summer fundraiser for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed legalization in 2012 but has promised to regulate the industry according to voters’ wishes.

“It was interesting to see how he’s starting to evolve. I said, ‘I’m telling you, I can get 100 people in the room who would be happy to max out,’” or give the state’s maximum legal donation of $1,100, Keber said.

A few weeks later, in August, Keber threw a fundraiser at the Four Seasons in Denver with a goal of raising $16,000 for Hickenlooper. The event netted $40,000.

In Washington state, the industry’s contributions are channeled into reforms that include reducing the tax rate on pot and kicking some marijuana revenue back to cities and counties to encourage more communities to allow dispensaries, said dispensary owner John Davis, who also serves as director of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics.

“This industry is becoming profitable, and we’re taking that profit and investing it politically. There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t make a political donation.”Not long ago, most marijuana entrepreneurs were “trying to scrape a few dollars together” to get started, Keber said. “Now this industry is becoming profitable, and we’re taking that profit and investing it politically. There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t make a political donation.”
The Oregon ballot measure has raised about $2.3 million.

A medical-marijuana question in Florida has attracted nearly $6 million.

And the Alaska campaign has brought in about $850,000. A recreational pot measure in Washington, D.C., attracted few donations, perhaps because it appears almost certain to pass.

Colorado’s congressional delegation alone has received some $20,000 this year from the marijuana industry, according to federal campaign-finance data. The true figure is probably much higher because many donors do not mention the drug in campaign-finance disclosures.

The largest federal spender on marijuana advocacy is the Marijuana Policy Project, which plans to donate $150,000 to federal candidates this year, up from $110,000 in 2013. The Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have also given directly to federal candidates, and tax-exempt industry groups such as the National Cannabis Industry Association can spend an unlimited amount of untracked money.

Politicians who used to reject checks from pro-marijuana donors “aren’t doing that anymore,” said Ethan Nadelmann, head of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance.

Still, the same candidates who cash the checks aren’t always keen to talk about it. About a dozen recipients of marijuana money declined interview requests or did not return calls from The Associated Press.

A Colorado state lawmaker who accepts marijuana-industry donations conceded thinking twice before taking them.

“I always worry about what people’s perceptions will be,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat who is the only sitting Colorado legislator who supported legalization. “But it came down to, I’m on record for where I stood before I ever took a penny from this industry.”

Todd Mitchem, a Denver marijuana industry consultant, recalled a fundraiser earlier this year thrown by a maker of cannabis vaporizer cartridges for a state legislator. When the company posted photos from the event on its Facebook page, the lawmaker asked that the images be taken down.

“They just didn’t want to be seen. They were still taking the money,” said Mitchem, who declined to name the lawmaker.

The only member of Congress who responded to the AP was Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, a longtime ally of the marijuana industry who has proposed federal legalization.

“As long as this industry Is following our state marijuana laws,” Polis said in a statement, “their contributions are the same as those from any other legal donors.”

Post to Twitter


The “Rules” About Drugs

Kids like to bring up the fact that alcohol kills many times more Americans than marijuana (or heroin, or cocaine). So why are those drugs illegal, their use subject to harsh punishment, when alcohol isn’t?

The "Rules" About DrugsI’m a teacher faced with the challenge of teaching my junior high students about the dangers of illegal drug use. The kids get stuck on why some drugs are legal and others aren’t. What’s the best way to answer?”

The "Rules" About DrugsI’m a teacher faced with the challenge of teaching my junior high students about the dangers of illegal drug use. The kids get stuck on why some drugs are legal and others aren’t. What’s the best way to answer?”
It’s a confusing issue. The rules about drug use don’t always make a lot of sense. Kids have an active sense of contradiction that hones in on inconsistencies at warp speed.

For instance, they like to bring up the fact that alcohol kills many times more Americans than marijuana (or heroin, or cocaine). So why are those drugs illegal, their use subject to harsh punishment, when alcohol isn’t?

You have to admit it’s a reasonable question. The answer has to do with our nation’s long history with alcohol, and the fact that most Americans drink.

Kids have questions about that, too. In history class they learn about the opium problem in China, which at one point in history was so bad that perhaps half of Chinese adults were opium users. The Chinese eventually banned opium. So why don’t we do the same with alcohol?

The answer you already know: America tried, back in the 1930’s, but it didn’t take. The number of alcohol-related problems decreased, but the rate of prohibition-related problems went way up. Principally, in the form of exploding crime rates.

But the kid might ask, if prohibition doesn’t work, why bother prohibiting drugs like cocaine and marijuana? Trafficking is a big source of crime there, too. How come we haven’t legalized them?

Answer: Because despite their popularity, most Americans don’t use them. If they did, we’d probably see a larger movement towards legalization.

Kids get the impression that our societal laws about drug use are mostly reflections of politics and customs, not logic or science. And that’s true. But it doesn’t always mean they’re a bad idea.

Here’s the reality: Where addictive drugs are legal, society has problems related to widespread use and availability. If drugs are illegal, we have problems related to the challenge of enforcement and deterrence.

Take cigarette smoking. I’m told that back in the early years of the 20th Century, lung cancer was virtually unheard of. We had plenty of tobacco use, in the form of cigars and pipes and snuff and chewing tobacco, but very little lung cancer. A doctor could go many years without seeing a case. Then came the manufactured, mass-produced cigarette. Think of it as a crack pipe for nicotine. Health experts figured out that it was a major culprit in the increase of tobacco-related disease. Some wanted to ban it, but nobody thought that society would be willing to ban it. By that time, there were just too many smokers. After considerable argument, they went with a massive public education effort, and taxation.

It worked OK. We still lose about a thousand Americans every day to tobacco-related illness, but many have quit, and the numbers of new smokers have decreased. Still, the societal costs remain enormous. That’s a good illustration of the dilemma. No matter which way we go, there’s a price to pay. Those related to enforcement, and those related to widespread use. It’s a difficult decision for a society to make.

It’s tempting to dither and debate, trying one method after another.

And that’s what makes kids ask questions.

Post to Twitter


Issue #45 Now Available!


Post to Twitter


Is that Sour Diesel in your bong the real thing? Portland scientist sets out to map marijuana DNA and find out

By Noelle Crombie

Before Lemon Haze and Super Skunk, it was mostly just good and bad weed.

But walk into any place that sells medical or recreational pot today and customers face a staggering variety of marijuana strains -- each with its own funky name, its own smell, appearance and the high it promises to deliver.

These modern strains, some of them highly sought after, are the product of a generally secretive, outlaw marijuana culture, where few records are kept and word of mouth rules.

But how do you know the gram of Lemon Haze in your vaporizer is actually what it’s supposed to be?

A Portland scientist is trying to solve that fundamental question of the cannabis world.

Nine months ago, Mowgli Holmes, 42, started Phylos Bioscience in Southwest Portland with entrepreneur Nishan Karassik, 44, with the aim of using cannabis DNA to untangle the genetic makeup of as many marijuana strains as they can find.

Their ultimate goals: to certify marijuana strains so consumers know what they’re getting and to provide pot growers with a kind of “stud book” of strain genetics to help guide their breeding.

“There is no reassurance that if you’re a Sour Diesel fan, that you could go into a dispensary and get Sour Diesel,” said Holmes, a microbiologist. “It’ll say Sour Diesel, but it will be something totally random.”

Their work is the latest example of scientists getting into the business of pot. So far they've focused mostly on lab testing for things such as potency and pesticides -- a requirement in places like Colorado and Washington, the only two states with legal recreational marijuana programs, and Oregon, one of 23 states that allow medical marijuana use. An initiative on Oregon's November ballot also would legalize the drug here.

In California, lab testing isn’t required, but consumer demand for lab-tested pot has spawned an industry. Scientists, too, have gotten involved in helping marijuana companies fine-tune extraction methods to meet the growing market for potent cannabis concentrates.

But cannabis genetics remains a largely untapped field, said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. She said marijuana genetics overlaps with intellectual property and U.S. patent issues, areas complicated by the federal prohibition on the drug.

“It’s a very controversial topic,” West said. “We haven’t seen a lot of our businesses talking about that particular area of science.”
The way Holmes sees it, identifying a strain’s particular genetic makeup is a major step toward being able to assure strain-fixated marijuana consumers that what they’re smoking is what they were told it was. Genetics, too, can help growers breed with more precision.

“Our biggest project really is to solve the question of consistency in this industry,” Holmes said.

Strain confusion

There is some reason to the rhyme of how strains are named now – for instance, names that include lemon generally have a citrus scent and diesel strains have a petrol odor – but often that’s where the similarity ends.

Marijuana aficionados, Holmes said, are as preoccupied with the differences among strains as wine critics are about grape varietals. Imagine, for instance, walking into a wine shop and asking for a Malbec only to be handed a Merlot.

Erin Wallace, a medical marijuana grower in Gladstone, can relate. She recently bought a seedling marijuana plant labeled as Maui Bubble Gift from a dispensary, thinking she was getting a strain known for being lower in THC and higher in cannabidiol, or CBD. Many patients say CBD has a more therapeutic effect than THC. After harvest, Wallace had the flowers tested at a lab only to discover that the strain had a higher THC than she expected.

“From a grower’s perspective, it’s just impossible to verify that you have gotten what they say you have gotten,” said Wallace.

Janice Patten, an Oregon medical marijuana patient who uses the drug to treat migraines, said it’s common to pick up an inaccurately labeled strain.

“Until a patient gets a hold of it, no one really knows,” the Beaverton woman said. “It’s like getting a prescription from the doctor and having a bad reaction to it.”

Some longtime marijuana growers say they welcome more transparency and clarity when it comes to strain genetics, but described Holmes’ mission as a daunting one.

First, there’s the question of how Phylos Bioscience will keep up with new strains that enter the market.

Then there’s the tricky issue of figuring out which strain is the real Lemon Haze or OG Kush?

“Do you take it to the original breeder?” said Dru West, a medical marijuana grower in Bend and author of “The Secrets of the West Coast Masters,” a guide to growing pot. “It sounds good to say you can do that, but a lot of that is myth and fable. A lot of that stuff exists in chat rooms. There will be a lot of convoluted information.”

Holmes agrees. He’s considered crowd sourcing the matter and letting consumers pick the real Lemon Haze based on its appearance, smell and high. He’s thought about hiring “non-stoner grad students” to conduct historical research into whatever records may exist to find the earliest mention of Lemon Haze. Maybe a panel of pot experts should make the ultimate call.

Holmes said some California lawyers are planning to start a strain registry, a step that might resolve the question.

“This part of it,” Holmes acknowledged, “is a bloody mess.”

Mapping Pot

Until last year, Holmes used his Ivy League Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology to research HIV, work that over time, he said, started to feel increasingly hopeless, like a problem that science might not ultimately solve.

He returned home to Oregon, eager to dig into another, more promising, area of research. Seeing that marijuana had become a burgeoning industry, Holmes did what scientists do: He started asking questions.

“Immediately I looked around and said, wait, no one is doing a genetics study of cannabis?” Holmes said. “No one is doing an evolutionary map of cannabis?”

(Asked about their own experience with cannabis, Holmes and Karassik are circumspect. “We are not stoners,” said Holmes, after careful consideration, “but we believe strongly in all forms of research.”)

He’s teamed up with his former professor at Columbia University, Robert DeSalle, an evolutionary biologist, to help create the map using marijuana DNA. DeSalle, a curator at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, will ultimately create what is, in essence, a family tree of pot. The tree starts with “landrace” strains, the plant’s original forebears, and ends in the messy jumble of modern-day strains like Girl Scout Cookies and Orange Kush.

“It’s a really good biological problem despite it being cannabis,” DeSalle said. “If someone had come to me and said these are watermelon, I would have jumped on this project in a second. It’s a perfect modern day tour de force that technology can figure out.”

In addition to the genetic mapping, Holmes’ company uses DNA sequencing to help cannabis growers quickly determine the sex of seedlings so they can cull male plants. Unpollinated female plants produce far more THC, the psychoactive component that gives marijuana users a high.

Holmes and his colleagues also use genetic material to screen plants for microbial contamination, such E. coli, salmonella and mold. Oregon requires medical marijuana sold in dispensaries be tested for potency, some pesticides and mold and mildew.

None of the scientists at Phylos Bioscience handle marijuana; droplets of plant DNA arrive in the mail from eight labs across five states that perform cannabis testing. The labs extract DNA samples and ship them to Holmes’ lab. So far, they’ve collected hundreds of samples, including a 2,700-year-old pot stash found in a Gobi desert grave.

Growers and consumers can take cannabis to one of the testing labs Holmes’ works with to have it added to the project. He's especially interested in older, oddball samples.

“People can get DNA from frozen wooly mammoth legs,” said Holmes. “We can get DNA from roaches in your guitar case from 1975.”

For scientists like Holmes, the field of cannabis research offers a new frontier.

“Scientists are always searching for something that hasn’t been looked at and in crowded fields it’s hard to find a project that hasn’t been done,” he said. “People have explored every little corner of the biological world.”

Holmes has already dreamed up a dozen research projects on pot.

“It’s wide open,” he said. “There is so much fun stuff to look at.”

Post to Twitter


Philadelphia Is Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

City of Brotherly Love is decriminalizing marijuana possession and public consumption, ending a drug policy that has disproportionately targeted African Americans and Latinos in Philadelphia for decades.

After a long summer of negotiations between Mayor Michael Nutter and supporters of Councilman James Kenney's decriminalization bill, the mayor agreed to sign the legalization measure, which will take effect October 20. Support from Philly cops, African American community organizations, and black media outlets helped forge the decriminalization law that passed 13-3 through the city council — a margin that would have overridden a potential mayoral veto.

"We're the largest city in the US that will decriminalize successfully," said Kenney's policy director Chris Goy. "And in doing so, forged our own path against the state." Marijuana possession is still illegal in Pennsylvania, and lawbreakers are remain subject to arrest, fines, and jail time.

A separate medical marijuana bill is still under consideration in the state legislature, and according to a Quinnicpiac University poll conducted in March, 85 percent of Pennsylvania voters support ending the state's ban of medical pot. But, despite overwhelming support among voters, according to VICE News sources in Harrisburg, the state's capital, the bill will likely fail to become law.

Philly's decriminalization bill makes marijuana possession of less than 30 grams equivalent to a $25 jaywalking ticket. Smoking weed in public is a bit more serious: Anyone caught toking will have to fork over $100 or complete nine hours of community service.

Possession of weed previously carried a $200 fine, plus mandatory viewing of a three-hour video on the dangers of drug abuse. The video is widely considered a joke and ineffective, a symptom of the dysfunctional way the city, state, and country deal with the possession of tiny amounts of weed.

"After three years of closely monitoring Philly, we still remain concerned that racial disparity exists at every level, relating to the stop and frisk program," Paul Messing, an attorney who works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia, told VICE News.

Though marijuana advocates and civil rights advocates consider Philadelphia's decriminalization ordinance a victory, concerns still remain, including a fear that the city's police force won't embrace the measure. Philly cops still use the controversial "stop and frisk" tactic, which ostensibly strives to reduce crime by eliminating vandalism and other petty crimes that proponents say are correlated with more violent and destructive acts.

"In particular, we have seen striking racial disparity in arrests for small amounts of marijuana," Messing said. "We're hoping new legislation reduces or eliminates that disparity."

Black and Latino suspects account for 83 percent of the 4,000 weed possession arrests every year in Philly, city council member James Kenney told the New York Times. Nationally, the racial disparities are a well documented concern that, according to an ACLU report, may have influenced President Obama and other policy makers to shift their stance on prohibition.

Marijuana enforcement laws are unquestionably a civil rights issue, according to attorney Harry Levine. "A classic civil rights issue is equal treatment under the law," Levine told VICE News. "If you have enforcement against some people but not other people; then you have a civil rights question."

But despite the overwhelming evidence in the wake of the ACLU's report, opponents of Philadelphia's decriminalization law remained unconvinced.

Historically, cops and their lobbying groups have opposed most attempts to decriminalize weed or make medical and recreational pot legal, according to Levine. In California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the state's Police Chiefs Association has long been an opponent of plans to enact a statewide regulatory framework for the drug.

To get the cops on board with Philly's decriminalization, Kenney and his allies partnered with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — an organization of current and former law enforcement officials that aims to raise awareness about drug policy failures. After Philadelphia's cops heard firsthand from a 30-year narcotics veteran from Maryland, it became clear that the sky wouldn't fall if weed possession became the equivalent of a jaywalking citation, Goy said.

Police support is vital since pot remains illegal under Pennsylvania law, a fact that's not going to change in the immediate future. Because weed is still illegal at the state level, cops can, theoretically, arrest people in Philly on suspicion of breaking state law. Convictions for breaking the state law carry fines of up to $500, 30 days in jail, plus a criminal record.

"With the cooperation of our police department, we helped forge the agreement to pass the bill," Goy said. "The police commissioner said that they're going to do everything they can to implement the bill, and they even recognize there are a lot of questions about those of have gotten arrest records in the past."

The criminal record that comes with a state conviction is especially damaging to those who rely on federal government assistance programs such as subsidized housing and college loans, not to mention the difficulties of getting a job with a drug-related conviction, Goy said.

But the major bellwether in the Kenney's effort was bringing the city's African American community organizations on board with the legislation. "Councilman Kenney credits the real turning point to black radio and the black clergy for coming to support the bill," Goy said. "They were avid supporters."

Personal testimony also played a critical role in moving the debate, such as the story from a young mother who lost her job because she got busted with five dollars worth of weed in her pocket, Goy said. "The human element of what we're talking about is a lot more effective than polling numbers."

Photo via Flickr



Post to Twitter


How Did I Miss That? Drugs vs. Domestic Violence in the NFL

by Steve Russell

Josh Gordon, wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, got suspended for a year for testing one nanogram over the marijuana limit. A year off for toking up in the same season when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice only had to take two games off for punching the mother of his toddler daughter’s lights out? Well, it was Gordon’s second offense.

On September 8, a new surveillance video surfaced that actually showed fist to face and Janay Rice née Palmer falling unconscious. After having sponsored a press conference on March 23 where Rice’s faithful lady (who would marry him six days later) publicly apologized for assaulting his fist with her face, the Ravens canned him. Having already punished Rice, the NFL raised the two-game suspension to an indefinite suspension. Double jeopardy only applies to the government.

The NFL has since beefed up penalties for woman beating to a six game suspension on first offense and a “lifetime ban” on second offense (with possible reinstatement after one year). My cynical cousin Ray Sixkiller is taking bets on those petitions for reinstatement.

The Washington Post reported that the NFL is about to strike a deal with the players’ union that will move the threshold for a positive marijuana test upward. By even the current standards, Mr. Gordon barely failed with one urine sample and barely passed with the other half of the same sample. As NBC reported, if the A and B labels on those two cups had been reversed, the second half would never have been tested and Gordon would have passed. Cousin Ray thought a year off was a little heavy for a result based on chance but he really wanted to know if the marijuana rules would apply to the Broncos and the Seahawks?

The US Supreme Court decided in 2001 that the government needs a search warrant to use thermal imaging technology on your private property to reveal “grow lights” used for, among other things, marijuana cultivation. Citizens expected privacy because thermal imaging was not then in “general public use.” Since 2007, Wayne State University law professor Tony Dillof has been tracking the appearance of thermal imaging devices on EBay and watching the numbers double every year. Dillof claims to be preparing an analysis for the Journal of Armchair Empiricism and the Law. Cousin Ray speculated that High Times might have been a better venue for Prof. Dillof’s research, “and he should seriously consider Sports Illustrated.”

The NBA lost another owner to public racism, an issue that has yet to trouble the owner of the Washington team in the NFL. Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson opined, “the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base” and “the kiss cam is too black.” Levenson volunteered to sell the Hawks rather than make a circus like former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who admonished his girlfriend not to bring blacks to Clippers games, particularly retired superstar Magic Johnson. Cousin Ray wondered if NBA owners were hanging around with NFL players? “I heard that secondhand smoke can get you stoned.”

After $2 billion spent, Congress pulled the plug in 1993 on the Superconducting Super Collider being built by the Department of Energy in Waxahachie, Texas, in spite of the explanations by Nobel winner Leon Lederman in a popular science book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?

The cancellation moved the cutting edge of physics research to Switzerland, where, in 2012, European researchers demonstrated the physical (as opposed to mathematical) existence of Higgs boson aka “the God particle.”

Who cares?

The Times of London reported that Professor Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, has warned that at very high energy levels, the Higgs boson could become unstable. In Hawking’s words, “This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”

“Dang,” said Cousin Ray. “That sounds inconvenient.”

The on line echo chamber is going crazy over reports that a Brevard County, Florida police department is buying 8 Apache Attack helicopters. Professor Google returns five pages of links to “prove” it. The county bought some choppers back in 2011, to use for the normal things counties do—rescue, pest control. Not Apaches. Not armed. “The real question,” Cousin Ray said, “is whether the bozos spreading this will pay any price for being wrong again?”

Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia has been convicted of 11 counts of corruption. His attempt to blame his wife, a former cheerleader for the Washington football team, did not fly. Gov. McDonnell’s extraordinary public humiliation of his wife represented an audacious defense that would otherwise require the jury to believe that a stranger gave the first couple of Virginia over copy60,000 worth of stuff and the favors that followed were not out of the ordinary. The claim was that the “family values” husband was so crosswise with his out of control wife that they could not have conspired together. In pursuit of showing that estrangement, he put on a “defense” that completely trashed Maureen McDonnell.

Another family values hero, Pastor Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill megachurch empire that branched out from Seattle to have 15 locations in five states, has described women in a tortured, extended and just weird metaphor as “homes” for penises. Driscoll was already facing allegations of plagiarism and misappropriation of church funds, but the people he called “penis homes” appear to have sunk attendance and contributions enough that three locations have already closed and more closures are contemplated.

Post to Twitter


Will Alaska, Oregon, And DC All Legalize Marijuana In 2014?

By Phillip Smith

Labor Day has come and gone, and the 2014 election is now less than two months away. Marijuana legalization initiatives are on the ballot in two states — Alaska and Oregon — and the District of Columbia. For the marijuana reform movement, 2014 is a chance for a legalization trifecta on the way to an even bigger year in 2016, but there is also the risk that losing in one or more states this year could take the momentum out of a movement that has been on a seemingly unstoppable upward trend.

[Editor's Note: There are also local marijuana reform initiatives in several states, a Florida medical marijuana initiative, and a California sentencing reform initiative. The Chronicle will address those in later articles.]

The Initiatives

The Alaska and Oregon initiatives are quite similar. Both envision systems of taxation, regulation, and legal sales, and both allow individuals to grow small amounts of marijuana for their own use. The DC initiative, on the other hand, does not allow for taxation, regulation, and legal sales. That is because of peculiarities in DC law, which do not allow initiatives to enter the domain of taxation. But like the Alaska and Oregon measures, the DC initiative also allows individuals to grow their own.

Alaska Measure 2

The Measure 2 initiative allows adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and up to six plants (three flowering). It also allows individual growers to possess the fruits of their harvest even in excess of one ounce, provided the marijuana stays on the premises where it was grown. The initiative also legalizes paraphernalia.

The initiative grants regulatory oversight to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, but gives the legislature the authority to create a new entity, the Marijuana Control Board. In either case, the regulatory authority will have nine months to create regulations, with applications for marijuana businesses to open one year after the initiative becomes effective.

A $50 an ounce excise tax on sales or transfers from growers to retailers or processors would be imposed.

The initiative does not alter either existing DUI laws or the ability of employers to penalize employees for testing positive for marijuana.

The initiative would not interfere with existing medical marijuana laws.

Oregon Measure 91

The Measure 91 initiative allows adults 21 and over to possess up to eight ounces and four plants per household. Individuals can also possess up to 16 ounces of marijuana products or 72 ounces of liquid marijuana products. And individuals can also transfer up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products, or 72 ounces of liquid marijuana products to other adults for “non-commercial” purposes.

The initiative would designate the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to regulate marijuana commerce. The commission would license, audit, and inspect growers, suppliers, and retailers. The commission could set purchase amount limits, which are not specified in the initiative. The commission would have until January 4, 2016 to begin licensing growers, producers, and retailers.

Marijuana sales from producers to processors or retailers would be taxed at a rate of $35 per ounce, $10 per ounce of leaves, and $5 per immature plant. The commission can recommend to the legislature any changes in the tax structure, which would then have to act to enact them.

The initiative does not alter either existing DUI laws or the ability of employers to penalize employees for testing positive for marijuana.

The initiative would not interfere with existing medical marijuana laws.

DC Measure 71

The Measure 71 initiative would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and six plants, three of which can be mature. Households could grow up to 12 plants, six of which can be mature. Growers can possess the fruits of their harvests. Plants could only be grown indoors.

Adults could transfer up to an ounce to other adults without remuneration. There are no provisions for taxing and regulating marijuana sales because District law forbids initiatives from taking up tax and revenue matters. A bill is pending before the DC city council that would do precisely that.

The initiative also legalizes the sale and possession of pot paraphernalia. It does not change existing DUI law, nor does it “make unlawful” any conduct covered by the District’s medical marijuana law.

The Prospects

None of these measures are long-shots at the ballot box, although none appear to be shoe-ins, either. None of the campaigns have made internal polling available, but an Oregon poll this summer had 51% in favor of a generic legalization question, with 41% opposed. A DC poll in January had 63% in favor of legalization.

Alaska is looking a little dicier, at least according to the most recent Public Policy Polling survey, which had the initiative trailing by five points after leading by three points (but still under 50%) in May. But, as we shall see below, there are questions about the reliability of the survey data there.

There are a number of factors other than public opinion that could influence whether these initiatives pass or fail. They include voter turnout in an off-year election, financial support for the campaigns, and the degree of organized opposition.

The Chronicle checked in with a number of national marijuana reform professionals and people involved with the initiatives to get a sense of the prospects, the challenges, and the implications of electoral success or defeat. There is a sense of cautious optimism, tempered with concerns that won’t be allayed until the votes are counted.

“All three measures have a great chance of passing, and it’ll really be a matter of how well these campaigns get their message out,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There’s also the question of what type of opposition there is, and how well it’s funded. I’m familiar with the opposition in Alaska, and it’s just more of the same old. They’re trying to make marijuana sound as scary as possible, and it’s up to those campaigns to make sure voters know it’s not so scary.”

It’s about getting out the message and getting out the vote, Tvert said.

“Typically, the more turnout, the more support for making marijuana legal,” said Tvert. “We would expect to see broader support during a presidential election year, but we’ll find out if support is strong enough to pass these in an off-year. All these measures can pass, but these campaigns have to get their message out.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has endorsed all three initiatives, not having found anything too objectionable in any of them.

“When you’re in the marijuana legalization business, that’s what you do,” explained NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre. “All three entities involved requested our endorsement, and our board of directors voted unanimously to do so,” he explained.

“Oregon and Alaska are very similar, and while DC is the least impactful in what it seeks to achieve, but they all basically move the meter,” he said. “If one or all of them pass, they will be seen as a good thing; if we get a full sweep, that will only affirm that we are now in the legalization epoch.”

But can marijuana legalization pull off that trifecta this year?

“Alaska looks like it’s in the most trouble, but with the caveat that polling there is hard to nail down,” St. Pierre said. “That makes it all the more important for reformers to embrace the effort there, send resources, and encourage others to do the same. We’re raising money for all three states right now on our web site, and Alaska is getting the least amount of earmarked donations — and those are coming in from Alaskans. It’s the proverbial out of sight, out of mind state, but it’s one where you can actually impact an election at relatively low cost.”

Frank Berardi of the Alaska Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation had plenty to say about the polling.

“If you look at the polls, it’s close, but in that 44% poll, the way they worded the question doesn’t even reflect the language of the initiative, and since the question was inaccurate, a lot of people who would have been in support said no,” he said. “Also, the age distribution was off — it was mostly older people who were polled. And if you take the margin of error into consideration, it’s a toss-up. It makes me wonder what the results would have been if the poll had been valid.”

The coalition is working with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska to pass Measure 2, but there is something of a division of labor between the two groups, Berardi explained.

“We’re partnered with the campaign, but while they’re focused on passing this is November, we’re focusing on helping to implement the regulatory aspects of the bill,” he said. “We’ve been polling our members about what they want, and we hope to work with the legislature on ensuring the people get what they want.”

Still, the coalition isn’t just waiting for Measure 2 to pass.

“We’re helping out on the campaign, we go to events, we’ve share a booth with the campaign, we’re informing people about the measure and out goals,” he said.

People are equally hard at work down in Oregon.

“We are fighting for every vote, and we don’t take any vote for granted, but we feel like we have a really strong case and a growing majority of Oregonians support us,” said Peter Zuckerman, communications director for New Approach Oregon, the group behind Measure 91.

“The challenge is going to be turnout,” he said. “We really need our voters to register and vote. The polls have us ahead, but we need voters, volunteers, donors — all the help we can get.”

The campaign is getting significant help. It has raised millions in campaign funds and has a $2.3 million TV ad reservation. And it has a well-honed message.

“In Oregon, somebody gets arrested or cited for marijuana once every 39 minutes,” Zuckerman said. “Seven percent of all arrests are for marijuana. Treating it as a crime has failed. With a regulated market, police will not be distracted with small marijuana cases. Instead of people buying it on street corners, they can buy it in a regulated marketplace. It’s a much better system.”

The campaign is also picking up key endorsements. It’s won the support of the state’s largest and most influential newspaper, The Oregonian, the Democratic Party, and the well-heeled City Club of Portland. It’s even won the support of the Oregon State Council of Retired Citizens. (Click here for the complete list of endorsements.)

“Every endorsement helps,” said Zuckerman.

“Oregon is going to make it,” NORML’s St. Pierre predicted, citing polling so far, key endorsements like The Oregonian, and a changing political climate.

“Gov. Kitzhaber has made it clear that if he is reelected and the citizens task him with this, he will faithfully implement it,” he said. “Oregon is a state that is environmentally conscious, and he was concerned about energy use. He wanted alternatives to indoor cultivation. But you can set up greenhouses — safe, water-friendly, criminal-deterring greenhouses. And not only is Kitzhaber keen, Attorney General Ellen Rosenbaum is very supportive. She’s probably one of the most progressive attorneys general in the country.”

St. Pierre also argued that Oregon pot people are coming around to regulation.

“The industry itself, as in Colorado, seems to recognize that there is a better opportunity for both legitimacy and profits if they embrace legalization, as compared to some brethren in California and Washington who chose to oppose it,” he said. “This is the state where voters have been asked the legalization question the most, and I think finally Oregon is going to break out.”

A victory in Oregon would carry the most weight, the NORML head said.

“That would move the meter the most. It would be actual sales, taxation, and regulation, and it’s not as out of sight as Alaska. And it would cinch up the Pacific Northwest.”

And then there’s DC.

“DC is kind of symbolic, it’s not legalization in the purest sense of the word, but it goes as far as it can under DC law,” said St. Pierre. “But it’s building in the District, going from medical to decriminalization being almost universally supported, and now building to soft legalization. That will de-incentivize police, they won’t have any reason to ask what’s in your hand, what’s in your pocket.”

“I feel like we’re in the lead, but I’m very nervous about a well-funded opposition mounting,” said Adam Eidinger of theDC Cannabis Campaign, which is leading the charge in the nation’s capital. “We have no great war chest and we could be caught flat-footed. I don’t want to be overconfident; I would rather have a well-funded campaign to assure victory.”

Eidinger said the DC campaign had $50,000 in pending pledged contributions, but less than $2,000 in the bank right now. He said he’s had problems raising money not only from advocacy groups, but also from the industry, which also contributes to the advocacy groups.

“I don’t think we were on the advocacy groups’ schedule,” he said, adding that some had also expressed skepticism about whether the measure would ever be implemented even if it won because of possible city council or congressional interference.

“Nonprofits are getting a lot of money from the cannabis industry, but in our case, there is no clear business model for profiting from selling cannabis or having exclusive rights to growing it,” Eidinger pointed out. “Even some dispensaries have painted this as a threat to their near monopoly. We do not have aligning interests. Monopolies and price supports don’t benefit consumers or anyone except business entities and the government.”

The campaign is getting some financial backing from the Drug Policy Alliance, but it needs more help, he said.

“You need to talk to your family and friends and get them to support the campaign with donations, with voter registrations, and as election day volunteers,” Eidinger said. “We will be doing a postering blitz, we’re planning some mailers, but with less so little money in the bank right now, we need a major influx of cash. We blew everything we could leverage just getting on the ballot.”

Three initiatives, three chances to win marijuana legalization victories this year. But the stakes are high, and they go beyond 2014.

“This is the penultimate year, and if we have any losses, our opponents will immediately claim we’re losing momentum, that whatever has happened has peaked, and that would be really regrettable,” St. Pierre suggested.

“But 2016 is the ultimate year. If California moves forward — it will likely be joined by Maine or Massachusetts, but California is so important, if it legalizes, America will legalize, and North America will move in the same direction, and so will the European Union,” he said. “But if we lose this year, that makes the job in 2016 that much harder. If we lose in Alaska or Oregon, that will provide fodder for the opposition.”

MPP’s Tvert was a bit more sanguine.

“We’re in a position where we will continue to move forward, and it’s unlikely we will move backwards,” Tvert said. “In Colorado in 2006, people told us we were crazy to run an initiative because we would lose and the state would never legalize marijuana, but public opinion is moving toward ending prohibition, and we expect to see that continue. And even if one or more don’t pass this year, we will surely see several pass in the near future.”



Post to Twitter


College students’ use of marijuana on the rise, some drugs declining

ANN ARBOR—More college students nationwide have added illicit drugs, such as marijuana and amphetamine, to their back-to-school supply lists.

Illicit drug use has been rising gradually among American college students since 2006, when 34 percent indicated that they used some illicit drug in the prior year; that rate was up to 39 percent by 2013. Most of this increase is attributable to a rising proportion using marijuana, according to the University of Michigan scientists who conduct the nationwide Monitoring the Future study.

Daily marijuana use is now at the highest rate among college students in more than three decades. Half (51 percent) of all full-time college students today have used an illicit drug at some time in their lives; roughly four in 10 (39 percent) have used one or more such drugs in just the 12 months preceding the survey.

The results are based on a nationally representative sample of some 1,100 students enrolled full time in a 2- or 4-year college in spring 2013. The survey is part of the long-term MTF study, which also tracks substance use among the nation's secondary students and older adults under research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Marijuana has remained the most widely used illicit drug over the 34 years that MTF has tracked substance use by college students, but the level of use has varied considerably over time. In 2006, 30 percent of the nation's college students said they used marijuana in the prior 12 months, whereas in 2013 nearly 36 percent indicated doing so.

Of perhaps greater importance, daily or near-daily use of marijuana—defined as 20 or more occasions of use in the prior 30 days—has been on the rise. The recent low was 3.5 percent in 2007, but the rate had risen to 5.1 percent by 2013.

"This is the highest rate of daily use observed among college students since 1981—a third of a century ago," said Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the MTF study. "In other words, one in every 20 college students was smoking pot on a daily or near-daily basis in 2013, including one in every 11 males and one in every 34 females. To put this into a longer-term perspective, from 1990 to 1994, fewer than one in 50 college students used marijuana that frequently."

Nonmedical use of the amphetamine Adderall, used by some students to stay awake and concentrate when preparing for tests or trying to finish homework, ranks second among the illicit drugs being used in college. Eleven percent of college students in 2013—or one in every nine—indicated some Adderall use without medical supervision in the prior 12 months.

The use of psychostimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin, has nearly doubled since the low point in 2008, though there was no further increase in this measure between 2012 and 2013.

The next most frequently used illicit drugs by college students are ecstasy, hallucinogens and narcotic drugs other than heroin, with each of these three having about 5 percent of college students reporting any use in the prior 12 months.

Ecstasy use, after declining considerably between 2002 and 2007, from 9.2 percent annual prevalence to 2.2 percent, has made somewhat of a comeback on campus. It rose to 5.8 percent using in the prior 12 months in 2012, and was at 5.3 percent in 2013. Hallucinogen use among college students has remained at about 5 percent since 2007, following an earlier period of decline.

The use of narcotic drugs other than heroin, like Vicodin and OxyContin, peaked in 2006, with 8.8 percent of college students indicating any past-year use without medical supervision. Past-year use of these dangerous drugs by college students has since declined to 5.4 percent in 2012, where it remained in 2013.

Use of synthetic marijuana, which used to be legally available and was sold over-the-counter in convenience stores and other shops, ranked fairly high in 2011 with past-year use at more than 7 percent of college students that year. Use has fallen sharply in the two years since, however, to just over 2 percent in 2013 (secondary school students have shown a similar recent drop in their use of synthetic marijuana, according to the Monitoring the Future annual surveys of middle and high school students).

The use of salvia, an herb in the mint family, has fallen sharply since 2009, when it was first added to the study, from 5.8 percent of college students reporting use in the prior 12 months to just 1 percent in 2013.

Other use of illicit drugs on the decline
The use of some other illicit drugs by college students also has declined in the past decade, including crack cocaine, powder cocaine, tranquilizers and hallucinogens other than LSD (which involves psilocybin, e.g., "magic mushrooms").

Another encouraging result is that a number of illicit drugs have been used in the prior 12 months by fewer than 1 percent of college students in 2013. These drugs include inhalants, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, "bath salts," GHB and ketamine.

In general, female college students (who are now in the majority) are less likely to use these drugs than are their male counterparts. For example, 40 percent of college males used marijuana in the past year compared to 33 percent of college females. Also, 24 percent of males versus 16 percent of females used some illicit drug other than marijuana. Daily or near-daily use of marijuana was particularly concentrated among college males, with nearly 9 percent of them indicating marijuana use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days, compared with only 3 percent of college females.

Mixed results found in alcohol use
There remains plenty of alcohol use on the nation's college campuses, with about three quarters (76 percent) of college students indicating drinking at least once in the past 12 months and more than half (58 percent) saying they had gotten drunk at least once in that period.

In fact, more than a third (35 percent) said they had consumed five or more drinks on at least one occasion during the two weeks just prior to the survey. Particularly worrisome are rates of what the investigators call "extreme binge drinking." Averaged across years 2005 to 2013, they find that one in eight (13 percent) college students had 10+ drinks and one in 20 (5 percent) had 15+ drinks in a row in the past two weeks.

Despite these high rates of involvement, alcohol use has declined some on campus in recent years. In 2008, 69 percent said they had at least one drink in the prior 30 days, whereas in 2013 that number had dropped to 63 percent. Similarly, the percent indicating that they got drunk during that period fell from a recent high of 48 percent in 2006 to 40 percent by 2011, where it then remained through 2013.

To some degree these declines may reflect the declines observed among high school seniors before they even went off to college, since MTF finds that drinking rates have been declining and are at historic lows among high school students.

The age peers of college students—that is, young adults who are also one to four years out of high school but are not full-time college students—have roughly equivalent proportions to college students in their past-year use of any illicit drug or any illicit drug other than marijuana.

They also have quite similar rates of several specific drugs, including past-year use of marijuana, ecstasy, hallucinogens other than LSD, and extreme binge drinking. However, they are twice as likely as college students to be daily marijuana users, and they have annual prevalence rates of use for several particularly dangerous drugs that are roughly two to three times as high as rates found among college students. These include crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, heroin and narcotic drugs other than heroin (including OxyContin and Vicodin, specifically). The noncollege segment also has a daily cigarette smoking rate roughly three times what it is among college students, but they have a somewhat lower rate of having been drunk in the prior 30 days (34 percent) than do college students (40 percent).

Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E. & Miech, R. A. (2014). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2013: Volume 2, College students and adults ages 19–55. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, 424 pp. Available at:

The Monitoring the Future study is now in its 40th year and has surveyed nationally representative samples of full-time college students one to four years beyond high school each year for 34 years, starting in 1980. The annual samples of college students have ranged between 1,100 and 1,500 per year.

MTF is an investigator-initiated research undertaking, conceived and conducted by a group of research professors at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (listed as authors below) and funded under a series of competitive research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health.

MTF also conducts a national survey of high school seniors each year, and a random subsample of those 12th graders is drawn for follow-up by mail in future years. Those who are found to be in college full-time one to four years past high school comprise the college student sample. They are not drawn from particular colleges or universities, which helps to make the samples more representative of the wide range of institutions offering a college degree.

The findings are drawn from chapters 8 and 9 in the newly published monograph "Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2013: Volume 2, College students and adults ages 19–55":



Post to Twitter


Marijuana dispensaries need access to banking system

NEARLY TWO years after Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana, nine distribution centers are to open next year in places like Brookline, Lowell, Salem, and Quincy. The state licensing process for these dispensaries has been convoluted. And yet that path seems easy to navigate compared with the latest obstacle: the banking system. Because the drug remains illegal under federal law, marijuana-related businesses nationwide have struggled to find banks that will accept their deposits. This is creating a bizarre and dangerous cash management situation for businesses that Massachusetts and other states treat as legal. Federal lawmakers and regulators should acknowledge this and allow marijuana dispensaries to use the banking system safely.

Nationwide, legal marijuana sales are expected to reach about $2.6 billion this year. In February, the Obama administration announced new guidelines for banks to legally do business with state-regulated marijuana merchants. But the action doesn’t prevent federal authorities from prosecuting or otherwise penalizing those banks. Not surprisingly, banks are still leery of serving the on-the-books marijuana industry. Recently, it was reported that only 105 banks and credit unions — 1 percent of the total nationwide — provide banking services to marijuana dispensaries, according to a top federal official.

The issue is most acute in Washington and Colorado, the only states to allow sales of recreational marijuana. But three-quarters of Americans now live in states with marijuana laws more lenient than the federal government’s. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia allow some form of medical marijuana. In November, Alaska and Oregon voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

In light of a shift in public sentiment, it’s worrisome to hear of marijuana business operators having to hide tens of thousands of dollars in cash in offices and carry it around in paper bags because banks refuse to take their money.

The cash stockpiling has created unintended consequences: New security businesses have sprung up to protect the cash that marijuana merchants are forced to transport. A Seattle marijuana businessman told The New York Times: “We have to play this never-ending shell game of different cars, different routes, different dates, and different times.” Meanwhile, owners of marijuana stores have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in state taxes using cash. Even more puzzling: Legal marijuana businesses without bank accounts are charged a 10 percent penalty by the IRS for paying payroll taxes in cash.

Congress seems to be doing something about the problem. This summer, the US House approved a bipartisan amendment that allows banks to accept deposits from marijuana stores and dispensaries. The bill prevents the Treasury Department from penalizing financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses that are legal under state law. The Senate should quickly pass it so that marijuana businesses can at least begin to apply for the banking services they need.

Post to Twitter