New federal bill would allow banking for marijuana businesses

New federal bill would allow banking for marijuana businesses

Marijuana businesses can’t openly bank and congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., is hoping to change that.

Perlmutter on Thursday introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), legislation that would allow banks to serve marijuana-related businesses without fear of penalties from the federal government.

The bill is a reintroduction of the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act, which was first introduced in 2013 — and again in 2015 — and subsequently languished.

Whether the third time’s the charm remains to be seen, but a lot has changed in four years — and even two years — for the marijuana legalization landscape, Perlmutter and co-sponsors Denny Heck, D-Washington, and Don Young, R-Alaska, said in a statement.

Twenty-nine states and a couple of U.S. territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and Washington, D.C., also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age.

“There’s just too much danger in the buildup of cash,” Perlmutter said in an interview with The Cannabist.

Perlmutter positioned the legislation as a means to boost public safety, referencing threats that arise as a result of businesses operating primarily in cash. He noted the death of Travis Mason, a security guard who was killed during an attempted robbery of a marijuana dispensary in Aurora, Colorado.

Federal marijuana banking bill introduced in Congress
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado. (John Leyba, Denver Post file)

Perlmutter said he’s optimistic that the bill would find acceptance among members of Congress.

It would need to make it out of House Financial Services Committee first.

Perlmutter said that the most significant hurdles facing the SAFE Banking Act are committee leaders who haven’t been favorable to marijuana legislation. Perlmutter said he’s spoken with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., about helping to ease some of those committee blockades.

“We’ve got to get the federal laws and the state laws to align and not be in conflict with one another,” Perlmutter said.

In the absence of specific banking laws to address the cannabis industry, banks, marijuana businesses and regulators are operating under a series of guidelines held over from the Obama administration.

Akin to the Cole Memo, which is the Justice Department’s guidance on marijuana law enforcement policy priorities, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2014 issued a directive for how banks could conduct business with marijuana firms in states with legal cannabis.

State financial regulators and members of the cannabis industry have argued that the guidance wasn’t clear enough and didn’t go far enough to spur greater participation from banking institutions.

The FinCEN guidance remains in place, but for how long, Perlmutter said he’s been given no assurances.

“So far, they’re following those guidelines and allowing for these banking transactions to proceed,” he said. “But I’ve heard from others — other banks, other credit unions — who want the law to be specific; so they aren’t just relying on this guidance out of the Treasury Department and out of the Justice Department.”

Federal marijuana banking bill

Federal bill: Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act 2017 (Text)

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Published at Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:20:17 +0000

New studies shine light on cannabis consumers' spending habits

New studies shine light on cannabis consumers' spending habits

America’s legal marijuana market topped $6.5 billion in 2016 and is projected to grow to $24 billion by 2025, yet data-driven insights into consumers have remained elusive.

Two new studies are shining a light on the cannabis consumer, providing insight into actual purchase behavior as the industry prepares for four new state recreational markets, including California, and six new medical markets expected to come online in the next eight months.

As the legal recreational and medical cannabis industry matures, consumers are increasingly open to experimenting with new products and delivery methods, including concentrates and infused edibles, according to a report released Wednesday by cannabis analytics firm New Frontier Data.

Meanwhile, sales of traditional dried marijuana, a.k.a. flower, are on the decline.

In 2016 alone, recreational demand for flower fell from 85 percent of sales in January to 64 percent in December. The decrease was mirrored in medical markets, where flower’s share fell from 87 percent of sales to 65 percent.

During that period, medical markets saw demand for concentrates grow from 10 percent of sales to 27 percent, according to the report. On the recreational side, concentrates grew from 10 percent of sales to 21 percent, while demand for pre-rolled joints grew from 1 percent of sales to 8 percent.

The shift away from flower toward higher price-point concentrates, edibles and pre-roll joints reflects a legal industry commercializing and scaling “in the light of day,” said John Kagia, New Frontier Data’s vice president of industry analytics.

“Concentrate-filled vape pens and sophisticated, dosed edibles simply weren’t available in the illicit market,” Kagia said in an interview with The Cannabist. “Pre-rolled products have gone from an afterthought filled with leftover cannabis to a premium product made with high-end strains and sold in elegant, easy transport packages.”

Other factors that could be influencing consumer behavior is the desire for discretion and a general negative perception of smoking, Kagia said.

“You can smell a joint from a mile away, but vaping offers a discreet way to consume,” he said. “Our society has also undergone a radical transformation in our views towards smoking tobacco, so the perceived benefits of vaping rather than smoking may also be one factor for the market shift.”

The trend toward infused products such as edibles is particularly acute in Colorado’s recreational market, where retailers moved more than three times as many infused products as medical dispensaries did in the first half of 2016, according to the report.

Medical marijuana consumers spend more

While recreational legalization was expected to cannibalize Colorado’s medical market, the report found that strong demand for pricey concentrates and edibles buoyed sales figures in the face of declining patient participation. While the number of patients enrolled on the state medical marijuana registry ebbs and flows, the report noted a decline from 107,534 in December 2015 to 94,577 in December 2016. However, tax revenues from medical sales remained steady throughout 2016 at about $1 million per month.

To gather the data, Washington, D.C.-based New Frontier Data partnered with Baker Technologies, a Colorado-based retail and marketing platform used by more than 300 retail marijuana shops and medical dispensaries in 10 states, to track consumer behavior in key markets including California, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico and Washington.

New Frontier and Baker found that medical patients spend three times more on cannabis than recreational users.

In 2016, U.S. medical consumers on average shopped once every 10 days and spent $136 per transaction. In contrast, recreational consumers shopped once every 14 days and spent $49 per transaction.

Medical patients are purchasing larger quantities of the same product, Kagia said. Meanwhile, recreational consumers are purchasing smaller quantities more frequently so they can sample the myriad strains on the market.

Interest in cannabis consumer demographics extends beyond marijuana industry

Mining granular consumer data is also a sweet spot for Boulder’s BDS Analytics, a market research firm that tracks point-of-sale data at marijuana stores.

Last year, BDS launched a consumer research survey to get a better sense of the various types of cannabis consumer. In recent weeks, the firm has started to show the fruits of that labor by quietly releasing some data from its first comprehensive survey of adults in Colorado and California.

“We’re seeing some real differences between men and women, age groups, generations, attitudes and preferred methods of consumption,” said Linda Gilbert, a 30-year market research veteran who is heading BDS’ efforts on this front.

The survey will be updated every six months, but the initial results have been telling regarding aspects such as lifestyle and demographics, said Gilbert, who has conducted similar research for industries such as natural foods, pharmaceuticals and alcohol.

And companies within those industries — among others — are calling Gilbert to learn more about the cannabis consumer.

“If I’m not in the cannabis space and even if I have no intention of going into the cannabis space, I have to, as a marketing person, start to look at this as a new consumer cohort that I should try to communicate with,” she said.

For example, survey participants who have consumed cannabis in the past six months are more likely to be engaged in physical activity on a once-a-week or greater basis than people who don’t use cannabis, she said. The survey showed that 56 percent of consumers partook in outdoor recreation, compared with 34 percent of non-consumers; 53 percent of consumers hit the gym, versus 33 percent of non-consumers; and 42 percent of consumers engaged in yoga or Pilates, versus 21 percent of non-consumers.

“That’s one of the things that’s been really fascinating to me is how much it becomes part of a routine and lifestyle,” she said. “But it’s not a couch-potato lifestyle, it’s a healthy lifestyle.”

From focus-group interviews, BDS found that men are using cannabis to relax and to enjoy recreationally with friends, she said, adding that women said they consume to address anxiety, stress and pain such as menstrual cramps.

Gilbert’s BDS team also gleaned that women make up the majority of new consumers.

That knowledge could be incredibly powerful for companies within and outside of the cannabis industry, she said, reflecting on the launch of women-targeted products like Virginia Slims or energy bars.

“For the people who are not in the industry, more of this sort of mile-high view is important,” she said. “And for them, they all need the consumer data. I think there is a consensus that they’re going to be impacted.”

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Published at Wed, 26 Apr 2017 23:51:11 +0000

Expanded Medical Marijuana Proposal Passes by a Landslide in Iowa Senate

Expanded Medical Marijuana Proposal Passes by a Landslide in Iowa Senate

On Monday, the Iowa State Senate passed an expanded medical marijuana proposal by a landslide.  The vote was 45 “yes” to 5 “no”. This expansion would allow making and dispensing cannabis products in Iowa legal, as well as for adults to legally possess and use cannabis under a doctor’s care to treat an variety of medical conditions.  The proposal is entitled “The Compassionate Use of Cannabis Act,” and, if it passes through the rest of the State’s Congress, would become a new law that would replace Iowa’s existing but limited cannabis oil statute.

This expansion could have great potential for cannabis policy reform overall, with Iowa being right in the middle of America’s heartland.

According to a local news outlet in Cedar Rapids, Iowa called The Gazette, this proposal lays out an expanded approach to reclassify marijuana and open it as a limited medical alternative under tight regulation and supervision.

“Let’s do the right thing for the people out there who are suffering,” said Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale. The bill was supported by 25 Republicans 19 Democrats and one independent, while four Republicans and one Democrat opposed it.

Under provisions of Senate File (SF) 506, Iowa would license up to four manufacturers to “possess, cultivate, transport or supply medical cannabis” by July 2, 2018, so up to 12 licensed dispensaries could begin distribution to qualified adult Iowans by July 16, 2018. Interested makers and dispensers would pay a non-refundable $15,000 state fee.

About a year ago, a poll was released that found that 78% of Iowans supported medical marijuana reform. While most of the public polled seemed to more broadly support medical marijuana as opposed to recreational/adutl-use marijuana, they have steadily become more comfortable..  The poll from last year was up from 58 percent in 2013.

The proposal will now go to the Iowa State House of Representatives, where it’s future is still uncertain.  You can read the full text of The Compassionate Use of Cannabis Act here.

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Published at Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:38:36 +0000

4/20 in the Trump era: Marijuana celebration or political rally?

4/20 in the Trump era: Marijuana celebration or political rally?

There was a time — before the vendor booths, before the concerts with famous headliners, before the documentary crews and before the cannabis tour groups — when 4/20 in Denver meant a simple protest rally.

Eleven years ago, only a couple thousand people gathered in Civic Center park for the annual marijuana smokeout in defiance of state and federal laws. The rally planned for Thursday could hardly look different — 250 vendor booths, tens of thousands expected to attend and the rapper 2 Chainz scheduled to perform.

But organizers also hope that this year, especially, will bring a renewed commitment to activism.

“The rally is by definition a coming together for the common good,” said Miguel Lopez, who holds the permit for the rally and has been its most vocal advocate for years. “But we can’t be that effective if we’re not engaging a little more.”

Even by the standards of marijuana festivals, these are strange days.

On one side of the law, Colorado’s marijuana industry is booming, more states and countries are legalizing, and public support has never been stronger. On the other side, the new administration in the White House has signaled a hostility toward legal marijuana and a desire to do something to blunt its rise, meaning that legalization supporters could soon face their greatest challenge yet.

And that leaves Lopez and others in the marijuana movement with something of a problem this time around. Should they view the pot-smoker’s holiday as a chance to show strength? Or should they lie relatively low in the hopes of not attracting unwanted attention that could spur a crackdown?

“I think both sides are going to get something out of the 4/20 rallies,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on marijuana policy.

For the cannabis movement, Hudak said rallygoers may decide to emphasize the event’s political roots and tap into the broader protests against President Donald Trump.

“This resistance movement that has really taken off … is something that’s really going to motivate a lot of people to come out and make this a pretty significantly sized rally,” Hudak said.

For anti-marijuana groups, the 4/20 rallies will probably provide an opportunity to criticize the excesses of marijuana legalization.

“It’s something that the (U.S.) attorney general can point to and say, ‘Look at this, the state can’t even control public use,’” Hudak said.

Both approaches could have their drawbacks. Talk of a crackdown could be confronted by the sheer number of people at the rally, demonstrating just how much money and energy the federal government would have to spend to push back against legalization. Meanwhile, a raucous rally could undermine the mainstream credibility that marijuana supporters have tried to build over the past several years.

This is a tightrope that the cannabis industry is particularly familiar with. While individual stores and product companies have embraced the glamour of 4/20, the National Cannabis Industry Association, one of the industry’s lobbying groups, has traditionally shied away from the events, even as it has expressed support for marijuana consumers. Taylor West, the NCIA’s deputy director, spoke of the 4/20 events as similar to the Great American Beer Festival in producing both positive and negative images.

“In the larger context of 4/20, it’s always been a little bit of a mix, and I think it will be the same this year,” West said. “There will be some things that come out that maybe aren’t as good for the image of responsible use. But there will also be a tremendous amount of political activism.”

West said the NCIA prefers to save its own major activism push until May, when it holds annual lobbying events in Washington, D.C.

Lopez, too, said Denver 4/20 rally might not be the best place for marijuana supporters to fight the feds. For those who wish to battle Washington, Lopez had another suggestion: an annual Fourth of July “smoke-in” at the White House that he helps organize.

This year’s 4/20 rally in Denver, meanwhile, will mark the launch of a new group he is calling 420 Revolution. The group will be focused on local issues and on trying to strip away social stigma around cannabis use by encouraging one-on-one conversations in the community, Lopez said.

“I don’t see us particularly focusing on Trump,” he said. “We would be focusing more on a self-pride issue and on self-preservation as a group.”

This story was first published on DenverPost.com

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Published at Wed, 19 Apr 2017 12:29:54 +0000

Homeland Security Sec: “Marijuana is not a factor” in war on drugs

Homeland Security Sec: “Marijuana is not a factor” in war on drugs

Two high ranking Trump administration officials; two vastly different positions on marijuana.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to revive the war on drugs, and a crackdown on weed appears to be a major part of that. He is expected to pursue harsher punishments for using and distributing marijuana, which were relaxed under President Trump’s predecessor, as The Washington Post’s Sari Horowitz has reported. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions opined last year.

It’s a far cry from what Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said about the drug Sunday.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kelly told host Chuck Todd that marijuana was “not a factor” in the war on drugs and argued that “arresting a lot of users” wasn’t the right solution to the country’s drug problems.

Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, was discussing border enforcement when Todd asked him if legalizing marijuana would help or hurt his efforts to control the flow of drugs into the United States.

“Yeah, marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” Kelly said.

He continued: “It’s three things. Methamphetamine. Almost all produced in Mexico. Heroin. Virtually all produced in Mexico. And cocaine that comes up from further south.”

Those three drugs, Kelly added, had killed more than 50,000 people in the United States in 2015, along with opiates, and had cost the country some $250 billion.

Before joining the Trump administration, Kelly served as the head of U.S. Southern Command, overseeing security operations for Central America, South America and the Caribbean. In that role, he confronted issues related to the trafficking of narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, into the United States.

Kelly made similar remarks on marijuana in a November interview with MilitaryTimes. He told the publication he was opposed to illegal and recreational drug use generally, and was critical of marijuana legalization, but said he supported using pot for medical purposes.

“Whether it’s veterans or anyone else, if it helps those people, then fine,” he said. “Medicine is medicine.”

On that issue, he could hardly be more removed from Sessions, who has balked at the idea that marijuana could be used as a painkiller or treatment for opioid addiction.

“I’ve heard people say we could solve our heroin problem with marijuana,” he said in a speech last month. “How stupid is that?”

Sessions later told reporters he believed “medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” as The Post reported. In the same speech, he said his office may reexamine Obama administration policies that left marijuana legalization in the hands of states.

Unlike Sessions, Kelly doesn’t have much say in how the United States prosecutes drug offenders. But in his “Meet the Press” appearance Sunday, he argued in favor of reducing demand for drugs rather than punishing drug users.

“The solution is not arresting a lot of users,” he said. “The solution is a comprehensive drug demand reduction program in the United States that involves every man and woman of goodwill. And then rehabilitation. And then law enforcement. And then getting at the poppy fields and the coca fields in the south.”

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Published at Mon, 17 Apr 2017 14:24:17 +0000

The 2017 Hemp Road Trip is Planning on Reaching 30 States in two Months

The 2017 Hemp Road Trip is Planning on Reaching 30 States in two Months

Following a successful 2016 tour around the U.S., the group behind The 2017 Hemp Road Trip are trying to raise funds – so they can raise awareness about the power of hemp across the country.

“The number one myth is that hemp is a drug like marijuana – that it gets you high,” says Rick Trojan. Earlier this year, on the first leg of his 2017 Hemp Road Trip, Rick found a lot of misconceptions about the plant. “Many farmers don’t even know they can receive more subsidies than with corn,”explains Rick, “It’s a new option for many states, for example, in the Carolinas it could be used as construction material.”

The 2017 Hemp Road Trip is planning on reaching 30 states in two months. Beginning in the South, the bus of advocates will trek up the coast to the Northeastern states, then across the Midwest, up to Montana and Washington, then back across Oregon, Northern California, through Utah and back home to it’s home base of Colorado.

“Get ready for another adventure in industry building!” says Rick Trojan, Founder at Hemp Road Trip, Co-Owner at Colorado Cultivars and Board Member at Colorado Hemp Industries Association.

“We had a successful 2016 on the road,” says Trojan, “visiting 40 states and meeting thousands of common sense folks that understand the value of an agricultural crop like Industrial Hemp!”

In 2016 America lent the following support toward progess for the hemp plant”
– 10 new House sponsors
–  6 new Senate sponsors
– 7 new States legalized hemp (32 total)
– 6 new States planting in 2017
– USDA Certified Domestic Hemp Cultivation
– Nearly 10,000 acres cultivated nationwide
– Over 20,000 acres registered for 2017 season

You can help keep it going with a donation at the trip’s gofundme.

Per the funding site, The 2017 Hemp Road Trip Spring Tour will cover 30 states, including states with NO hemp legislation (TX, UT, LA, MS, OH, MT, ID).  They’ll also be hosting events and activating people to engage their legislators and help bring an end to federal prohibition.

“We need your support!,” says the website for donations, “This is a BIG country and taking a bus and crew on the road is expensive.  Please donate and help us stay on the road and continue this important journey!”

The Hemp Road Trip says they greatly appreciate any donation, no matter how big or small.

“Let’s keep this bus rollin, so that the message of this beneficial crop can spread throughout the country, and the United States can finally get #Back2OurRoots,” reads the summary of the trip.

You can join in on the journey too, by following them us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where they will be posting pictures, videos, and status updates.

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Published at Sat, 15 Apr 2017 00:06:33 +0000

It's about time our president tells us where exactly he stands on marijuana

It's about time our president tells us where exactly he stands on marijuana

Editor’s note: The Denver Post opinion pages solicited commentary from various marijuana policy and industry leaders, as well as the public, for a special cannabis-themed edition of the Sunday Perspective section the weekend before 4/20. The Cannabist will be presenting these op-eds throughout the week.


It turns out we are more the rule than the exception here in Colorado: A majority of Americans now live in an area that allows legal access to recreational or medical marijuana. You only have to look to the success of Colorado to see why the legalization of cannabis has occurred throughout the nation.

Colorado has proven that allowing responsible adults to legally purchase marijuana gives money to classrooms rather than cartels; creates jobs rather than addicts; and boosts the economy rather than the prison population. Even still, the new Trump administration has failed to articulate a clear policy on where it stands on the federal regulation of marijuana. Instead, states and the industry have been trying to read between the lines of contradictory statements from the new administration.

Other states have decriminalized possession of marijuana or made medical marijuana accessible.  The reality is that we can’t go backward.

At stake is a growing industry that has created 23,000 jobs and generated $200 million in tax revenue in Colorado. Nationally, the legal cannabis industry is projected to create a quarter million jobs by 2020 and have a sales growth of $13.3 billion.

There is a social impact to that uncertainty as well. Last year, I met a highly decorated veteran who sustained injuries after being wounded by a roadside IED while serving in Iraq. His story is a compelling one, not only for his commitment to our nation and personal strength, but also because he chose to cope with his injuries by using medical cannabis instead of opioids, which worked for him with far fewer severe side effects.

With the states and federal government seeking ways to combat the growing opioid crisis, there is evidence that medical marijuana could provide part of a solution. In 2014, data from the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower (24.8 percent) state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.

Because of these reasons, I am not waiting for the administration to decide the fate of the marijuana industry. I have proposed several legislative changes that would solve the federal-state tension and continue to advocate that the new Trump administration leave in place existing policies while Congress works through the legislative process.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, a bill I just reintroduced, ends the federal prohibition on marijuana and establishes a federal regulatory structure that leaves states as the ultimate decision maker on marijuana legalization. Just as there is a legitimate federal interest in keeping alcohol and cigarettes (which have been met with some degree of success) out of the hands of minors, so too would there be renewed efforts to prevent minors from using marijuana.

In addition, I have worked across the aisle on an amendment that would prohibit the Dept. of Justice from using resources to interfere with state marijuana laws. Given how much the marijuana policy landscape has changed since November, I believe that this amendment has the support to pass. Finally, I started the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus to discuss and educate members of Congress on policy related to marijuana legalization, including access to mainstream financial services and tax revenue.

But until change to federal law can be made, the Trump administration should retain the Cole Memorandum, instead of pursuing a review of existing policies in a federal task force. Issued in 2013, the memorandum provided guidance to prosecutors and law enforcement on how to prioritize marijuana enforcement. The Cole Memo has allowed the federal government to prioritize investigating and stopping the illegal drug trade and associated crimes, instead of focusing on highly regulated industries, such as marijuana in Colorado.

The federal government can no longer turn a blind eye to this rapidly expanding industry. The Trump administration’s refusal to take a stance on the regulation of cannabis only further hinders our businesses and medical options, causing worry about arbitrarily or even politically motivated selective enforcement. I will continue to advocate and fight for pragmatic marijuana policy in Congress, and it’s about time our president tells us where exactly he stands on marijuana.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com

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Published at Fri, 14 Apr 2017 23:28:11 +0000

Canada unveils official marijuana legalization plan

Canada unveils official marijuana legalization plan

Canada is advancing plans to become the first Group of Seven nation to legalize recreational marijuana nationally, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is keeping key details hazy and allowing arrests to continue while parliament debates his plan.

Trudeau’s justice minister introduced proposed laws Thursday in the Ottawa legislature that set a minimum consumption age of 18, with individual provinces allowed to raise it as they see fit. Rules on retail sales will also be left to the provinces, with the government targeting legalization by July 2018 for a market analysts estimate to reach C$6 billion ($4.5 billion) by 2021. Shares of marijuana producers like Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. have surged more than fourfold over the past 12 months despite warnings that the legislative process could drag on.

Under the proposed bills, possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis would be allowed, and up to four plants can be grown per residence. Exports of marijuana will remain a serious criminal offense and a new penalty for those convicted of impaired driving will be imposed.

Until the new laws pass, Canada’s approach remains strict. Companies producing medical marijuana face costly security rules while police continue to raid pot shops springing up in anticipation of legalization. It’s prompted criticism that Trudeau — who is 45 and has admitted to smoking marijuana himself — is moving too slowly.

“This legalization is not legalization at all,” said Jodie Emery, a prominent activist who was arrested last month along with husband Marc Emery, Canada’s self-styled “prince of pot.” They were charged with trafficking, conspiracy and other offenses related to marijuana raids. “These regulations and restrictions the Liberals are introducing are designed to be a new prohibition,” she said.

Trudeau’s proposal — expanding on medical marijuana, which is already legal in Canada — is expected to spur merger activity and insiders at Canopy and Aurora are already taking profits. The governing Liberals have a majority in the House of Commons that will all but guarantee the legislation’s passage. The country’s Senate typically rubber-stamps legislation, though has grown more unpredictable since measures by Trudeau boosted its independence.

The proposed laws come after a federal task force recommended leaving key details, such as distribution and the legal age, up to individual provinces. The panel, which studied legalization efforts in Uruguay and individual U.S. states, also recommended barring elaborate packaging. Under the legislation introduced Thursday, packaging rules bar anything appealing to young people and prohibit the use of “testimonial or endorsement.”

Granger Avery, a physician who is president of the Canadian Medical Association, had urged a minimum age of 21, and restrictions on marijuana potency until age 25, when the human brain typically is fully developed. Avery also called on Trudeau to pour money into marijuana research and education aimed at, for instance, encouraging pregnant women not to smoke pot.

“It’s really about protecting the vulnerable populations,” Avery said. “We just need to make sure the public health perspectives, the research, the education and the protection for vulnerable populations and treatment programs are available and funded.”

Trudeau’s Liberals have been criticized for continuing to enforce marijuana laws over years while they arrange legalization. “Canadians, especially young Canadians, continue to face charges for something that will soon be legal,” Alistair MacGregor, a lawmaker with the opposition New Democratic Party lawmaker, said this week.

Others warn the measures go against Trudeau’s key objectives of reducing the access young people have, and diverting marijuana revenue from criminal groups.

“You don’t reduce harms caused by a drug by dramatically expanding availability for the target audience,” said Robert Solomon, a professor of law at Western University in London, Ontario and director of legal policy for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. “The federal framework is long on legalization, short on regulation. It’s dumping all the heavy lifting in terms of regulation onto the provinces.”

Trudeau campaigned in 2015 on legalizing consumption and incidental possession, while toughening penalties for providing marijuana to minors, driving while under the influence and selling it outside the new system.

It’s led to complaints from advocates Trudeau’s system is being set up to favor the licensed producers, some of which have ties to the ruling Liberal Party. Emery, the activist, says she didn’t think the legalized market would be revolutionary.

“I anticipate a lot of talk, a lot of discussion, but not much change with respect to the on-the-ground experience,” she said. “Which is that marijuana users know where to get marijuana, they don’t trust government or stock-market pot, and they never will.”

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Published at Thu, 13 Apr 2017 16:51:06 +0000

This new cannabis church pushes limits of Denver's social-use pot law

This new cannabis church pushes limits of Denver's social-use pot law

A 113-year-old church in Denver has found a higher calling.

The International Church of Cannabis opens its doors on April 20, the unofficial annual marijuana holiday. The renovated church at 400 S. Logan St. is the headquarters of Elevation Ministries, a newly formed Colorado nonprofit religious organization that claims cannabis as its primary sacrament.

This is a unique community for those who consume cannabis as a means to achieving self-discovery, founding member Steve Berke told The Cannabist in an exclusive interview and tour of the church. Members, known as Elevationists, claim no theology or authoritarian structure, he said.

“The Elevationists’ goal is creating the best version of themselves. We believe cannabis accelerates and deepens that process.”

As the 4/20 opening approaches, residents of the West Washington Park neighborhood are expressing concerns about plans for the church, which many became aware of only after the church’s title appeared in Google searches of the address in early April. The church also has caught the attention of skeptical city officials worried it is circumventing state and local laws about open and public consumption.

Berke and founding members of the Elevationists who spoke to The Cannabist insisted that their nascent religion is not a social club masquerading as a church to avoid state prohibitions on open and public consumption of marijuana. These restrictions are outlined in Amendment 64, the state voter-approved 2012 ballot initiative that legalized recreational pot, but Initiative 300 passed by Denver voters in November opens the doors to social use in consumption zones operated by permitted businesses.

“If that were the case, this would be an expensive and inefficient way to get stoned,” said member Lee Molloy. “We’re interested in building something larger here — a community that supports each other as we each discover our own paths.”

Berke is blunt: “We’re entirely within our First Amendment rights to practice our religion in this building.”

But the Elevationists may not have to invoke constitutional freedoms to practice their religion according to the church’s legal counsel, Denver marijuana law firm Vicente Sederberg LLC.

“This church is a legitimate effort to create a community for people that don’t find that in traditional religion, and it intends to follow all laws,” attorney Christian Sederberg said. “Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association — those constitutional protections apply. But the definition of ‘open and public consumption’ was never defined in Colorado state statute. The whole concept remains to be decided at the local level and we believe there’s space for this church to operate within those evolving statues.”

Elevationists’ ritual use of cannabis is not unlike the serving of wine during communion in Christian churches, Sederberg said. “When alcohol is served and consumed at a traditional church, is that in violation of open and public consumption laws?”

But based on preliminary information available, Denver officials are skeptical of Elevation Ministries’ intent to include cannabis in religious services in the church.

“We’re always dealing with issues of people or groups trying to skirt laws with the private social-club model,” said Dan Rowland, spokesman for the Department of Excise and Licenses. “But we haven’t yet seen those efforts cloaked in religion.”

Elevation Ministries received a zoning permit March 22 to operate a church, and leaders have to establish the building’s use as a church within 180 days of its issuance.

But until they open their doors, the city is in a wait-and-see posture, Rowland said.

“The open and public consumption of cannabis is not permitted in Denver and there’s not a religious exemption to that,” he said.


Interactive 3D video of the church sanctuary. Story continues below video:


Beyond a flyer circulated to immediate neighbors of the church on Monday, very little information has been made available, said City Councilman Jolon Clark. He first became aware of the intended use on April 4 when a concerned constituent phoned his office.

“I’ve since spoken with the church and am actively working to schedule a meeting with church leaders and the community,” he said. “I’m also working with the state’s office of marijuana policy and other agencies to ensure all laws are being followed.”

Neighbors are understandably concerned, said West Washington Park Neighborhood Association President Nicholas Amrhein. He says the group has a good relationship with bars and marijuana retailers within its boundaries and hopes they can establish a framework for a ‘Good Neighbor Agreement’ similar to those they have forged with other businesses. “We hope to do the same with the new church, but we need to know what their plan is.”

Berke said the plan for the church’s official opening is a three-day event kicking off April 20 called “Elevate 2017.”

During the day the church will host roundtable discussions and speeches with cannabis business leaders and policymakers. In the evenings, the church will host national comedy and music acts and screen documentaries. Confirmed speakers include Roben Farzad, producer and host of “Full Disclosure,” a radio show aired on NPR One, and documentarian Billy Corben, director of “Square Grouper,” chronicling Miami’s pot smuggling scene of the 1970s. Musical acts are still in the works, but confirmed comedians include by Kyle Grooms, a New York comic who has appeared on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” and Ramon Rivas II, a Cleveland comic who recently appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Half Hour.”

The event also will highlight the extensive renovations Elevation Ministries has undertaken in the historic church. Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel has covered the sanctuary’s walls and vaulted dome ceilings in a geometric rainbow mural. Outside, pop artist Kenny Scharf has installed a cosmos painting in his trademark street art style over once broken windows.

Elevate 2017 will be free to the public and also broadcast across the globe on Facebook Live to members who pay a $5 fee. “It’s an exciting launch for Elevation Ministries,” Berke said. “It’s the start of our journey to build a truly international community.”

DENVER, CO – APRIL 11: Church owner Steve Berke, middle, stands for a portrait with the rest of his crew inside the International Church of Cannabis at 400 south Logan street on April 11, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. They are from left to right: Alec Rubin, Adam Mutchler, Angie Hargot, Steve Berke, Briley Hale, Dave Bogue and Lee Molloy. The interior painting was done by artist Okuda San Miguel. The members of this new church call themselves Elevationists and say that the use of cannabis helps elevate people to a higher form of themselves. They plan to open their doors to the public on April 20th and have a weekend of events planned for the neighborhood to introduce people to this new and unique concept for a church. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

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Published at Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:19:12 +0000

Uruguay will Begin Selling Marijuana in Pharmacies this Summer

Uruguay will Begin Selling Marijuana in Pharmacies this Summer

Uruguay will begin selling marijuana in pharmacies this summer, the final stage in the country’s pioneering regulation and normalization of marijuana. The South American country will be the first in the world to legally sell cannabis over the counter for recreational use.  In fact, their president was even nominated for a Nobel Prize after the country legalized cannabis.

Uruguay voted to legalize marijuana in 2013. They were the first country in the world to do so. Instantly there were reports that grams of marijuana would sell for as low as one dollar in Uruguay, and that sales would occur very quickly. Time has shown that launching legal sales in Uruguay has taken longer than expected, and has been discussing these sales for quite a while now.

BBC news reports:

“Cannabis will be dispensed in pharmacies starting in the month of July,” presidential aide Juan Andres Roballo told a press conference.
The law requires buyers to sign up to a national registry, which Mr Roballo said would be up and running by 2 May. The price will be US$1.30 (£1) per gram.
Registrants – who must be Uruguayan citizens or permanent residents – can purchase up to a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) per month.  The marijuana sold will come from state-supervised fields.
The law also allows users to grow their own at home, or join cooperative clubs that farm it.
Many pharmacists have doubted the financial benefits of selling a cost-controlled product.
Some Uruguayan buyers were also reluctant to sign up to a national registry, complaining of the invasion of their privacy and of having to keep to the monthly limits.
The government has now done a deal with 16 pharmacies, but it hopes to sign up more.
Mr Roballo said there would be a public health campaign before the registry was opened.

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Published at Tue, 11 Apr 2017 17:08:52 +0000