Cannabis in California: A local and federal divide

1 12 2011

The recent history of cannabis in California  demonstrates a split between state and federal law that is rapidly widening. The first U.S. state to have, in 1913, prohibited the use of the devil’s herb imported by Mexican immigrants that was “marijuana”, California was also the first to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in 1996.

15 years of legal ambiguity on medicinal marijuana

Dancers prepare at a pro-cannabis rally in California

Dancers prepare at a pro-cannabis rally in California

2 weeks ago, medicinal marijuana users celebrated 15 years of Proposition 215, the law legalizing therapeutic use of cannabis in California. The law allows patients in possession of a prescription to grow their own medicine or designate a legal grower (also known as a caregiver) to grow it for them, according to California state law.

Federal law, meanwhile, still does not recognize the therapeutic applications of cannabis, and logically the state laws can not override national laws. Since 1996, however, thousands of clinics have opened across the Golden State.  This  was not accomplished without legal difficulties and not all the dispensaries have remained open, but despite the paradox in legislation, the state’s entrepreneurs still managed to establish an industry of cannabis in California that is now estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Local economy at risk

Given the very special status of the plant at federal and international levels, the medical cannabis industry in California is exclusively local, from production to distribution. For years the federal government has been trying to destabilize this market by various means.

On October 7th 2011, four District Attorneys in the Golden State claimed in a press conference that their goal was to address the production, distribution and marketing of cannabis in California. Shortly after, they sent dispensary owners an injunction to close their shops within 45 days.

Since then, the IRS has decided to claim retroactive taxes from the dispensaries in addition to new taxes on the sales of something that is still an illegal substance at a national level. This use of the tax system to put an end to an industry that seems to bother Washington is eerily reminiscent of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which taxed cannabis suppliers all over America.

Even the banks are threatened with charges of money laundering if they agree to open accounts for business people  involved in the thriving Californian economy  of producing and distributing medical marijuana!

Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries targeted

The legal status of dispensaries is comparable to the Dutch coffeeshop system, with one major difference: dispensaries go against American national policy, whereas coffeeshops have been licensed by the Dutch government. Some Californian cannabis clinics have become essential businesses for their local economy thanks to local taxes, while the federal government prefers not to touch a dime of this revenue.

It is these medicinal cannabis dispensaries which are the target of the Obama administration.  A complaint has been  filed by a group of activists and lawyers to stop this crusade against the clinics, targeting the Attorney General of the United States, the director of the DEA Michelle Leonard and the four District Attorneys who acted without authorization from their supervisors.

A confrontation between Washington and L.A?

Cannabis in California

Cannabis in California

The current situation creates a schism between local power and federal power. California’s economy is the eighth largest in the world, and cannabis in California allows the Golden State to prosper at the expense of the federal government and its repressive policies.

Californians have recently re-elected their former Governor and Attorney General Jerry Brown, who has always supported medical marijuana, and has even introduced legislation to improve the legal status of patients with prescriptions for cannabis. He also proposed that the distribution should be taken care of by non-profit organizations.

The support from Governor Brown, the complaint filed against representatives of the federal government and the choice of the people at the polls are all clear indicators of opposition to the policies of the federal government.

All that remains to be seen is how much wider the divide between state and federal law will be allowed to grow before one of the two sides makes a decisive move on the future of cannabis in California.





Medicinal cannabis patients classed as ‘drug addicts’ by Oregon sheriffs

13 04 2011

Despite the amount of illegal firearms and genuinely harmful drugs that America seems to be knee-deep in, police in Oregon are concerned that card-holding medicinal marijuana users might be legally carrying guns.

Under the U. S. Gun Control Act of 1968, guns may not be sold to drug addicts. Most people would agree that this is a good idea, as the mental image of a ‘drug addict’ is almost always negative: shaking, dirty, paranoid, and incapable of rational thought. Nobody wants to arm that person.

An elderly medicinal marijuana user

An elderly medicinal marijuana user in Oregon (image courtesy of NORML)

Concealed Handgun Permits are refused

The sheriffs of Oregon, however, are classing medicinal cannabis users as drug addicts and refusing to issue concealed handgun permits to them. The sheriff’s office, by state law, should not refuse to grant such a license provided a list of conditions is met. These conditions usually  include U.S. citizenship, completing  a gun safety course, no criminal record, no mental illness or substance abuse problems. Again, these are all reasonable requirements, but the medicinal cannabis patients who fulfill them are still being refused the permit.

Use of prescribed marijuana should not limit a person’s rights

Retired school bus driver Cynthia Willis is one such patient, and along with three co-plaintiffs she is part of a potentially landmark case currently under consideration by the Oregon Supreme Court. Cynthia likes to carry a Walther P-22 automatic pistol, which she says she’s never had to draw, for self-defense. She also uses cannabis to control muscle spasms and pain from her arthritis, but says she never uses it when she plans to carry her gun (or drive). So far she’s won two court cases on the argument that prescribed drug use does not disqualify a person from holding a concealed gun permit, and medicinal cannabis is a prescribed drug like any other.

Outdoor medicinal marijuana

An outdoor medicinal marijuana crop in America

More at stake than the right to carry a concealed firearm

What is at stake here is not just the right of medicinal cannabis users to carry (concealed) firearms: by Oregon law, if someone doesn’t have a concealed gun permit but does have a gun license, they can simply carry the gun openly, as Cynthia plans to do if she loses her case. Given the tragic events in Alphen aan den Rijn on Saturday as the latest in a long line of horrific shootings by licensed gun owners throughout the world,  it can be argued that gun licenses should be revoked altogether.

How do you abuse your own medicinal cannabis crop?

The underlying issue of concern in Oregon is the classification of medical marijuana patients as ‘drug addicts’, with all the negative connotations of this epithet. Although cannabis seeds have never been illegal in Oregon, and it was the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of bud back in 1973, courts recently decided that employers had the right to fire medicinal cannabis users. The sheriffs of this county openly argue that the majority of medicinal card holders are abusing the right to use ganja as a medicine, despite the fact that buying, selling, and dispensaries are still prohibited so patients must grow their own (or have someone grow it for them without profit) in order to do so.

Flyer for the Oregon NORML Cannabis Cafe, with buds

NORML is active in Oregon, which was the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Defending the rights of medical marijuana users

Executive Director of NORML Allen St. Pierre is focused on defending the right of every medicinal marijuana card holder to be treated like any other citizen: “A person who uses medical cannabis should not have to give up their fundamental rights as enumerated by the Constitution,”‘ St. Pierre said.

Source material for this article here .





Cannabis tax in California would generate 1.2 Bil.$ a year!

16 07 2010

California — Here’s a sure sign that  marijuana dispensaries are on their way to becoming big business: On July 13 the city council of Berkeley, Calif., asked voters to approve a 2.5 percent tax on the city’s  marijuana outlets, three of which grossed a total of $19 million last year, all cash. “This is huge,” says Mayor Tom Bates.

A dispensary in Oakland, Ca.

The tax will not only help close a $16.2 million budget gap, but it also makes sure that as the sale of pot goes mass market, the local community benefits, not outside business interests, Bates says. “We don’t want to have Philip Morris coming in here, sucking up all the money.”

Taxing pot sales is a growing trend across the nation as fiscally challenged cities eye the public’s budding acceptance of cannabis use. Denver has generated $1.2 million since December, when the city began collecting sales taxes from its 256 dispensaries. On June 15, Washington, D.C., approved a 6 percent tax on what will eventually be five dispensaries. Read the rest of this entry »





Ex-U.S. attorney: Time to change pot laws

20 11 2009

Three years ago, former U.S. Attorney John McKay was somewhere near the front lines of the nation’s drug war.

Directing federal prosecutions in Western Washington before he was fired in 2006 by the administration that appointed him, McKay’s office sent marijuana smugglers and farmers to prison on decade-long terms. It indicted a loudmouth Canadian pro-pot activist for selling cannabis seeds by mail order.

So the crowd at an Edmonds auditorium could have been forgiven its surprise on Monday when McKay stood on stage with travel author and decriminalization advocate Rick Steves and declared that, of course, he is “against stupid laws.”

“I think there has to be a shift in the paradigm,” said McKay, now a professor at Seattle University. “The correct policy change would be a top-to-bottom review of the nation’s drug laws.”

Read the rest of this entry »





18 negative effects of the ban on cannabis

12 11 2009

Negative effects Cannabis prohabition

Here is a list of some of the negative effects of the ban on cannabis:

  1. The ban on cannabis means that in addition to the coffeeshops and people who grow for their own use, an illegal market in cannabis also exists. There is no possibility of control over this illegal market which leads to criminality, unsafe situations, and events that disturb the peace; and to which underage people have easy access.
  2. The ban on cannabis makes large scale crops and export of the product into a lucrative source of income for criminal organizations which can then use this income for other criminal activities, or ‘wash’ it via money laundering operations that can disturb the legal economy.
  3. The ban on cannabis encourages criminal and antisocial behavior: rules concerning safety and security (for growing and in the marketplace) are easily broken and this goes unpunished. Conflicts are resolved using violence.
  4. The ban on cannabis leads to an increase in prices, as the producer in an illegal market calculates their risk into the price.
  5. The ban leads to a migration of tourists to coffeeshops near the borders of the country, and the operation of ‘drug runners’ to transport the product. Simple solutions for this problem such as the proposal for a so-called ‘Weed Boulevard’ with legal supply logistics are held back by the ban on cannabis.
  6. The ban on cannabis puts enormous pressure on the resources of the police and the justice system, which cannot then devote them to other, more important goals. Some of the methods used to enforce the ban limit the personal freedom of civilians and are a matter of contention in court.
  7. The costs of enforcing the ban on cannabis are not justified by the results. Although the goal of the ban (an essential reduction in supply and demand) fails to come a single step closer, the ban itself is never brought forward for discussion.
  8. The ban on cannabis damages the credibility of the government, given that the use of cannabis continues to be firmly naturalized in society.
  9. The (world-wide) ban on cannabis is one of the pillars of the U.S. dominated War On Drugs, which has led to sizeable global violations of human rights; and severely damages both the environment, and the security of the populations of cannabis-producing lands.
  10. The ban on cannabis impedes the development of the industrial applications of the plant, which is capable of making a very valuable contribution to a sustainable future.
  11. The ban on cannabis makes it impossible to carry out standardized controls on the product. Therefore demands can hardly be placed on the product in terms of consistent quality, health, or accompanying information on the contents and effects of the product.
  12. The ban on cannabis leads to unwelcome and unhealthy practices in production which negatively affect the quality and effects of the product, and thereby damage the health of the consumer.
  13. The ban on cannabis criminalizes the cannabis consumer (over one million Dutch people), with negative social consequences for the people in question, their relationships, their family, and their home and work environment.
  14. The ban on cannabis is a restriction of the right to freedom of expression. It legitimizes information about the supposed evils of cannabis, information that cannot be seriously tested for durability, credibility or truthfulness and yet is used as justification for the active enforcement of the ban.
  15. The ban on cannabis damages the right of the individual to make decisions about his / her own body.
  16. The ban on cannabis damages the right of the individual to possess a medicine that is necessary to maintain or support his or her health and wellbeing.
  17. The ban on cannabis dissuades doctors from prescribing it to patients who could benefit from the effects; and delays the process of recognition of its medicinal applications in the treatment of multiple afflictions such as HIV and AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, and chronic pain.
  18. The ban on cannabis denies the government the possibility of levying taxes on the product.

Source: hashmuseum.com/cannabis-cultuurprijs/





Cannabis Ebonics – Stoner Terms

29 10 2009

We found this list of stoner terms online and thought we’d share them.  Some of the terms are more frequently used in America however most (if not all) have made their way into the international stoner vocabulary.  We also dug up a classic clip of Ali G listing other stoner terms:

April 20th (4/20) – International Cannabis Day, everyone blazes on this day. Everyone blazes at 4:20 every day too.

Blaze – To get high!

Blunt – Either a hollowed out cigar filled with marijuana or (more commonly) a “marijuana cigarette” rolled with a blunt wrap (tobacco paper or emptied cigar).

Bowl – Can refer either to the part of a piece that holds cannabis, or to the pipe itself.

Bogart – The act of holding on to a joint/piece/blunt for too long, or one who does such an act: “Don’t bogart that joint my friend, pass it over to me”.

Boo – A street name for marijuana, listed only in anti-drug literature. No one has ever heard or used it. If you are ever arrested for possession, you should use this term, saving the taxpayers the expense of correcting and reprinting anti-pot pamphlets.

Kick-Hole / Carb – The hole on the side of a piece used to regulate air flow. Hold it closed with your thumb while inhaling to draw smoke into the chamber, then release to let air in and force the smoke into your lungs. Also called a “rush hole”.

Cherry – The red burning coal of marijuana in a joint or bowl.

Chillum – A pipe with the bowl in line with the stem.

Ganja – Just 1 of many synonyms for cannabis, others include  Dope, Marijuana, Grass, Draw, Puff, Blow, Weed, Gear, Ganja, Herb, Wacky Baccy, Skunk, Pot, Bob Hope and Bob – see the Ali G video below for many more :)

Hashish / Hash – The resin secreted by a marijuana plant. Different kinds of hash are prepared with a variety of recipes.

Hash oil – A liquid extracted from marijuana. Use mostly by dipping smokeables into the hash oil.

Hit – A drag or puff cannabis.

Hot Box / White wall – Getting high in a car or small space with no ventilation so that you are constantly inhaling atmospheric smoke.

Joint / Zut / Doob / Doobie – Marijuana cigarette. Kind Bud (chronic, hydro, sticky icky, highs) – High potency Cannabis.

Mids – Descent cannabis for the money you pay for it, if you don’t have a lot of money this is the best way to go.

Moocher – Someone who will smoke your bud in a second, but never has any of their own.

Papers / Skins – Cigarette papers used for rolling joints.

Piece – Refers to a pipe of one sort or another.

Resin – Black tar like stuff that builds up in smoking apparatuses.

Schwag – Low grade cannabis or the leftovers from the bottom of a big bag.

Source:  www.howtogrowbud.com





Houses made of hemp could help combat climate change!

27 10 2009

professor pete walker - university of bath

We have recently come across this very interesting press release from Professor Peter Walker at the University of Bath (U.K) who is leading the research into the use of hemp-lime in construction.  Buildings and other infrastructure currently accounts for almost 20% of the UK’s eco-footprint.  This is another example of how this wonderful plant can help save reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Recently we brought you the news that Hanes – one of the worlds biggest consumer brands – has been investing in a new hemp technology called Crailar which requires only a fraction of the water needed to make cotton; and we are very happy to announce that it is the subject of another of our articles, a Dutch company called Hempflax who has won the contract to supply the raw materials to Hanes – i.e. the HEMP!

Here’s the press release:

Houses made of hemp, timber or straw could help combat climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of building construction, according to researchers at the University of Bath.

Currently the construction industry is a major contributor of environmental pollutants, with buildings and other build infrastructure contributing to around 19% of the UK’s eco-footprint.  Researchers at the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials are researching low carbon alternatives to building materials currently used by the construction industry.  Although timber is used as a building material in many parts of the world, historically it is used less in the UK than in other countries. Researchers at the Centre are developing new ways of using timber and other crop-based materials such as hemp, natural fibre composites and straw bales. Their work using straw bales as a building material has already been featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs series.

Professor Peter Walker, Director of the Centre, is leading the research. He said: “The environmental impact of the construction industry is huge. For example, it is estimated that worldwide the manufacture of cement contributes up to ten per cent of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions.  “We are looking at a variety of low carbon building materials including crop-based materials, innovative uses of traditional materials and developing low carbon cements and concretes to reduce impact of new infrastructure. As well as reducing the environmental footprint, many low carbon building materials offer other benefits, including healthier living through higher levels of thermal insulation and regulation of humidity levels.”

Their research is being presented at the Sustainable Energy & the Environment showcase at the University of Bath.  The exhibition will be opened by David Willetts MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities & Skills, and will be attended by industrialists, research councils, local and national government representatives and other key stakeholders from across the South West.  The exhibition coincides with the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I-SEE) at the University of Bath, which will bring together experts from diverse fields of science, engineering, social policy and economics to tackle the problems of climate change.

Read the rest of this entry »








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