Archive for the ‘Washington’ category

Feds May Cut Off Water For Legal Marijuana Crops

May 20th, 2014

Some cannabis growers may soon find themselves with a lot less irrigation water if the U.S. government decides to block the use of federal water for state-legal marijuana cultivation.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees management of federal water resources, “is evaluating how the Controlled Substances Act applies in the context of Reclamation project water being used to facilitate marijuana-related activities,” said Peter Soeth, a spokesman for the bureau. He said the evaluation was begun “at the request of various water districts in the West.”

Local water districts in Washington state and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal, contract with federal water projects for supplies. Officials from some of those water districts said they assume the feds are going to turn off the spigots for marijuana growers.

“Certainly every indication we are hearing is that their policy will be that federal water supplies cannot be used to grow marijuana,” said Brian Werner at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which handles approximately one-third of all water for northeastern Colorado and is the Bureau of Reclamation’s second-largest user in the number of irrigated acres.

Washington state’s Roza Irrigation District, which supplies federal water to approximately 72,000 acres in Yakima and Benton counties, has already issued a “precautionary message” to water customers that may be involved in state-legal cannabis growing.

“Local irrigation districts operating federal irrigation projects have recently been advised that under Federal Reclamation Law, it is likely project water cannot be delivered and utilized for purposes that are illegal under federal law,” wrote Roza district manager Scott Revell in letters to the Yakima and Benton county commissioners. “Presumably growing marijuana would fall into this category.”

Both Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana for medical use more than a decade ago. Pot remains illegal under federal law. Reclamation’s Soeth said that the issue of cutting off water supplies for marijuana has never come up before.

A Department of Justice official told HuffPost it has no comment on the water issue. The Bureau of Reclamation is likely to announce a decision this month. “We’re going to work with our water districts once that decision is made,” Soeth said.

Marijuana advocates condemned the possibility of a federal water ban for state-legal crops. Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and key backer of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, criticized the hypocrisy of a federal government that would prevent water access to some legal businesses and not others.

“If water is so precious and scarce that it can’t be used for state-legal marijuana cultivation, it shouldn’t be used for brewing and distilling more harmful intoxicating substances like beer and liquor,” Tvert said.

The impact on Washington may be more severe, since the state’s marijuana laws allow for outdoor growing and, according to McClatchy, the Bureau of Reclamation controls the water supply of about two-thirds of the state’s irrigated land. In Colorado, marijuana businesses can only grow indoors.

Indoor growing in Denver, home to the majority of Colorado marijuana dispensaries, likely wouldn’t notice a shortage if the Bureau of Reclamation cuts off federal water.

“Because we are not a federal contractor, we would not be affected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesman for Denver Water, the main water authority for the state’s capital and surrounding suburbs.

But many other regions of the state rely on federal water. In Pueblo, about two hours south of Denver, about 20 percent of regional water is Reclamation-controlled. Although the remaining 80 percent of the region’s water is locally controlled, it passes through the Pueblo Dam, operated under Bureau of Reclamation authority.

“Yes, they come through a federal facility, but the federal facility is required to let those water right to pass,” Pueblo Board of Water Works executive director Terry Book said to southern Colorado’s NBC-affiliate KOAA.

The St. Charles Mesa Water District, another Pueblo-area water facility, has already imposed a moratorium on supplying water to marijuana businesses until the Bureau of Reclamation settles the issue.

The Bureau of Reclamation said its facilities deliver water to 1.25 million acres of land in Colorado and 1.2 million acres in Washington state. About 1.6 million acre-feet of water is delivered to Colorado’s agricultural sector from Reclamation and about 5 million acre-feet is delivered to agriculture in Washington.

As McClatchy reported last month that there are several viable alternatives to using federal water. Small-scale marijuana-growing operations may be able to use city-controlled water sources, or drill a well. Greenhouse growers are allowed to use up to 5,000 gallons of well water per day under state law. Any use beyond that requires a permit from the state. While some marijuana plants can require an average of six gallons of water per day, growing operations in the state are likely to fall well within that limit.

However, in areas of the state where much of the water is controlled by Bureau of Reclamation contracts, these alternatives aren’t as accessible.

The potential water ban has already set off local opposition. The Seattle Times’ editorial board urged the Bureau of Reclamation to allow federal water contracts to be used by marijuana farmers.

“The bureau has never had — nor should it have — a stake in what crop is planted. That’s a basic tenet of the 1902 National Reclamation Act, which created the bureau and transformed the arid American west,” read the May 4 editorial. “Yet the federal government is now threatening to forget that history, because some regulators are queasy about Washington and Colorado’s experimentation with marijuana legalization.”

As the Times’ board points out, there is some precedent for the Justice Department to stand down on the water issue. Last August, Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Washington and Colorado that the DOJ wouldn’t intervene in the states’ legal pot programs. And earlier this year, federal officials issued guidelines expanding access to financial services for legal marijuana businesses, so long as the business doesn’t violate certain legal priorities outlinedby the Justice Department.

“While we appreciate how the Obama administration has made some administrative concessions to the majority of voters who support legalization by issuing banking guidelines and having the Justice Department largely stand out of the way of state implementation, this water issue highlights the urgent need to actually change federal law,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. “There are bills pending in Congress that would solve this and other state-federal marijuana policy discrepancies, but so far the support from elected officials doesn’t even come close to matching the support from the public. I expect that gap will shrink with each passing election cycle as politicians start to see just how popular this issue is with voters.”

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner and Mollie Reilly
Published: May 19, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
Contact: scoop@huffingtonpost.com
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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Federal Lawsuit Filed to Derail Washington State from Collecting Taxes on Marijuana Sales

May 12th, 2014
Martin Nickerson
Martin Nickerson, owner of Northern Cross Collective Gardens

Martin Nickerson has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Washington, attempting to bar the state from collecting taxes on marijuana sales. Washington state officials are demanding that he pay taxes on those sales to the tune of $62,000. However, since Nickerson is under prosecution for the criminal sale of marijuana as a medical marijuana producer, he claims that forcing him to pay taxes on his sales would violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Alison Holcomb, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who was the main author of Washington State’s successful ballot initiative, said the lawsuit has a low probability of taking down the state’s legal marijuana system.

Suppliers like Nickerson have already made public their intent to break federal law, Holcomb said, so paying taxes on their proceeds would not do much to further incriminate them.

“Paying taxes on marijuana implicates you, but so does everything else about being engaged in this system,” she said.

Ultimately, the case brings into question whether federal laws trump state laws when it comes to collecting tax revenue generated from marijuana sales. The outcome of this case could have a significant impact on medical marijuana businesses around the country.

Washington State Marijuana Retail Licenses Lottery Rolls Out This Week

April 21st, 2014

I-502The Washington State Marijuana Retail Licenses Lottery begins today with a total of 334 retail licenses to be awarded. Washington State University’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center will be conducting the lottery for the state’s liquor control board, which oversees the marijuana retailers once they become licensed.

Approximately 1,500 applicants are in the lottery pool. With such a large applicant pool, the lottery process is expected to take all week with the board reviewing background checks on not only the applicants, but also their investors and financiers. The Washington State Liquor Control Board says, “The process will be extremely secure and will determine who gets a retail license to sell pot legally in Washington.”

“Legally” is the key term here. This lottery marks the beginning of WA businesses controlling the marijuana market and taking it out of the hands of criminals. Since small amounts of marijuana possession were legalized on Dec. 6, 2012, Washington residents have been acquiring marijuana through unlicensed, illicit dealers.

Final results of the lottery will be released on May 2, and the state expects to have the first marijuana stores open sometime in July of 2014, in accordance with the Implementation of I-502.

What Perfect Marijuana High Would Feel Like

April 15th, 2014

Marijuana users really enjoy strong weed, but would prefer that it came without paranoia, memory loss and impaired ability to function. That’s according to a new report from the Global Drug Survey in partnership with The Huffington Post, which anonymously surveyed more than 38,000 users around the globe.

All marijuana is not created equal. Effects can vary depending on the plant variety, cultivation, processing and blending. Cannabis has two major plant types — indica and sativa — and hundreds of hybrid strains with different characteristics. It’s produced in forms that include dried flowers, oil and wax.

The survey asked users what they’d like in a “perfect cannabis.” The results show that the “global dominance of high potency [marijuana] leaves many users far from satisfied,” the researchers say.

So what would the effects be of perfect pot — or “balanced bud” as the Global Drug Survey calls it?

Users want their cannabis to be strong and pure. And they want it to have a distinct flavor, and to impart a high marked by greater sensory perception, allowing them to “comfortably” speak to others with more giggles and laughs, while giving them the “ability to function when stoned,” according to the Global Drug Survey report.

Users report they don’t like some side effects of strong marijuana, including hangover feelings, paranoia, harmful effects on the lungs, feelings of becoming forgetful, an urge to use more, and feelings of being distracted or preoccupied, according to the survey.

Responses to the Global Drug Survey:

“There appears to be a paradox in the way people describe their perfect cannabis,” the Global Drug Survey report says. “This is because most the effects of being ‘high’ are due to THC, but higher doses of this drug are associated with more negative psychological effects. So while they want a preparation with overall more pleasurable effects, they also describe wanting less of the negative effects that are also due to THC such as sedation, munchies, memory impairment, restlessness. It might well be what they are describing is a high potency THC containing preparation balanced by CBD which is missing from many current strains.”

Currently, 21 states have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use and more than a dozen other states are considering legalization in some form. With all that interest and all those regulated marketplaces, growers and sellers can tap into users’ preferences with the Global Drug Survey data and help design a better plant.

The Global Drug Survey bills itself as the world’s biggest annual survey of drug users. This year, 79,322 people from more than a dozen countries participated in the anonymous online questionnaire.

Because the Global Drug Survey does not involve a random sample of participants, its results cannot be considered representative of any larger population. “Ultimately, the only people that this study (like so many others) can definitively tell you about are those who have participated,” the researchers say.

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post
Published: April 14, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
Contact: scoop@huffingtonpost.com
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Steep Drop in Pot Cases Has Freed Up Resources

March 20th, 2014

A steep drop in charges filed against adults over 21 in Washington state after legalization of marijuana shows the new law is freeing up court and law-enforcement resources to deal with other issues, a primary backer of the law said Wednesday.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that such low-level charges were filed in just 120 cases in 2013, down from 5,531 cases the year before. “The data strongly suggest that I-502 has achieved one of its primary goals — to free up limited police and prosecutorial resources,” Mark Cooke, criminal-justice policy counsel with the state ACLU, said in a news release.

Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the King County Prosecutor’s Office, said that hasn’t been the case in his office. He said prosecutors handled only a few misdemeanor pot cases a day before the law went into effect.

“There’s no great relief of workload,” Goodhew said. “All this has meant is maybe our calendar in District Court in the Seattle division is maybe, instead of 46 cases in a day, 44 or 43 or 42. We’re no longer filing misdemeanor marijuana cases, but we were not expending any significant resources on those cases at the time I-502 passed.”

Cooke conceded the law hasn’t fundamentally changed what prosecutors do every day but said when considered more broadly, I-502 has saved resources, from basic investigation and filing of paperwork to court time. He noted King County’s adult misdemeanor pot cases fell from 1,435 in 2009 to 14 last year.

“I can’t fault their logic,” said Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. “If we took speeding off the books, that would free up time. If we took robbery off the books, that would free up time.

“The question we all have to look at is, is it good public policy? My sole concern is that when you expand access to marijuana for adults, you expand access for underage people.”

The pot cases that were filed in the state last year likely involved people caught with more than an ounce of weed, or the 28 grams, they’re allowed to have under Washington’s Initiative 502, but less than the 40 grams that can trigger felony possession charges.

The data, which came from Washington’s Administrative Office of the Courts, also suggest racial disparities remain a concern in marijuana charges, Cooke said.

Before I-502’s passage in 2012, blacks were nearly three times as likely as whites to face misdemeanor marijuana-possession charges in Washington, and that remained true among the 120 cases filed last year, he said.

Of the 120, white defendants accounted for 82 cases and blacks for 11. That equated for whites to 2 cases per 100,000 residents; for blacks, to 5.6 per 100,000.

The number of misdemeanor filings for those older than 21 had been dropping for several years, the group said, from 7,964 in 2009 to 5,531 in 2012.

Court filings for all drug felonies, including marijuana growing and selling, have remained fairly constant since 2009, at about or slightly under 20,000.

Among people younger than 21, misdemeanor marijuana-possession charges have also fallen in the past two years from 4,127 in 2011 to 3,469 in 2012 and 1,963 last year. People younger than 21 aren’t allowed to have pot under the state law.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Gene Johnson, The Associated Press
Published: March 19, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press

The Marijuana Industry Pleads With Congress

March 14th, 2014

The House Budget Committee isn’t the most august room in Congress, but it commands respect, what with its oil portraits of former chairmen including Leon Panetta, who went on to be Defense Secretary and CIA director.

But it was the site on Tuesday of a briefing by the National Cannabis Industry Association, which you can think of as the pot trade group. So it’s probably not surprising that one of the questions asked of Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat leading the fight for reform of federal marijuana laws, was how many of his colleagues smoked pot.

Five or 10, he guessed. But he noted he’d never seen any smoke. And besides, since the House is made up of so many old members, the number was bound to be small.

It’s a sign of how far the cannabis industry has grown that their leaders are here in Washington, chatting up reporters and fanning out to meet their representatives the same way, say, onion growers might. With marijuana decriminalized in Washington state and Oregon and medical marijuana allowed in 20 other states and the District of Columbia, those who sell and distribute legal weed need a voice in Washington where any number of laws and regulations still treat them like outlaws.

For instance, because of laws designed to keep drug cartels from protecting their financial assets, it’s almost impossible for cannabis dealers to use regular banks for their business, forcing them to carry around bundles of cash as if they were, um, drug dealers.

What’s worse, some dispensaries have had to segregate their cash so it doesn’t smell like pot. Making payroll, buying goods from suppliers, all with cash, is like something from the Middle Ages. The Obama administration has tried to ease some federal banking regulations, but it’s not clear whether that’ll be enough to convince skittish banks — loathe to run afoul of Dodd-Frank, let alone this — to let cannabis dealers open checking accounts or give them loans.

To boot, cannabis dealers are not allowed to deduct their business expenses because of IRS regulations aimed at drug dealers. With an effective tax rate that can run as high as 85 percent, the cannabis industry has won the support of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which has joined in the fight to repeal the regulation. Any number of other laws are keeping cannabis dealers in the doghouse even as voters have made their voices clear across the country.

While public attitudes about marijuana have moved sharply in recent years — as a group, only voters over 65 believe it should remain illegal — the political climate hasn’t caught up with public opinion. Only a modest number of Congressmen have instituted support for the many bills and laws aimed at treating cannabis sales like any other business.

One of them is Dana Rohrabacher, one of President Ronald Reagan’s White House speechwriters, who represents the beautiful coastline of southern Orange County, Calif. (The Oliver Stone drug movie, Savages, was set in Laguna Beach, part of Rohrabacher’s district.)

Rohrbacher is a longtime surfer, even at age 66, a firebrand conservative and an outspoken critic of “communist China,” who suggested this week that Obama could be impeached over executive actions on health care and immigration. Still, criminalizing marijuana, Rohrbacher said, “is an absolute waste.” He added: “What is freedom all about? It’s about your right to make decisions.” But he concedes his colleagues will likely prove slow to embrace an issue they think would hurt them politically.

To help soften the mood on Capitol Hill, the cannabis trade association asked Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, to test public attitudes about marijuana. She found a widespread and growing acceptance of pot legalization, one reflected in other polls and also in popular culture where stoner comedies are blockbuster movies.

The data, though, show that the same forces that suggest the Democrats will do poorly in the midterm elections in November — low turnout among all groups save for the elderly, who lean right — create a climate that could spook some Congressmen from backing a change in the marijuana laws.

Asked if his GOP colleagues might be sympathetic to the argument, Rohrabacher says his fellow Republicans would favor pot reform if it were a secret ballot. Getting them out in the open won’t be easy.

Source: Newsweek (US)
Author: Matthew Cooper
Published: March 14, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Newsweek, Inc.
Contact: letters@newsweek.com
Website: http://www.newsweek.com

Colorado: First Month Of Legal Marijuana Sales Yields $3.5 Million In Taxes And Fees

March 12th, 2014

Retail sales of cannabis in the month of January yielded an estimated $3.5 million dollars in state tax revenues, according to financial data released online this week by the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Under Colorado law, commercial cannabis producers must pay a 15 percent excise tax, while retail customers must pay an additional ten percent sales tax (on top of the state’s existing 2.9 percent sales tax) on any cannabis purchased at a licensed facility. The majority of Colorado voters approved the imposition of cannabis-specific taxes (Proposition AA) in November 2013.

For the month, customers spent an estimated $14 million on the purchase of marijuana and cannabis-infused goods at state-licensed facilities. This figure is anticipated to grow larger as more and more facilities become operational.

State law authorized the retail sale of cannabis beginning on January 1st to those age 21 or older. At that time, only 24 retailers were operational. By month’s end, nearly 60 facilities were up and running. Presently, over 150 licensed facilities are operational.

Similarly licensed retail operations are anticipated to be operational in Washington by this summer.

D.C. Decriminalizes Marijuana

March 4th, 2014

Moments ago, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession!alert_sidebar_dc_decrim

The measure removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replaces them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. It also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts of marijuana, and it specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Public use of marijuana would remain a criminal offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The bill goes into effect this summer.

This means that, outside of Washington and Colorado, marijuana penalties are now less punitive in our nation’s capital than anywhere else in the country.

Washington, D.C. has the nation’s highest arrest rate for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. Blacks accounted for 91% of marijuana possession arrests in the District, and they were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite using marijuana at similar rates. The ACLU’s analysis concluded that enforcing marijuana possession laws, which make up nearly half of all drug offenses, costs the District more than $26.5 million per year. Hopefully, this new bill will have an immediate impact on this injustice.

Today Show and NPR Features NORML

February 2nd, 2014

The Super Bowl bet between Washington and Colorado NORML chapters, along with interviews with NORML board members Rick Steves and Kevin Oliver from Washington, was featured this morning on NBC’s Today Show. Additionally, Marketplace, heard on National Public Radio, also covered NORML chapter wager and the fact that the two teams competing for NFL title are from the states with legal cannabis sales.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Super Bowl Ads Call on NFL to Stop Punishing Players for Marijuana

January 29th, 2014

UPDATE: MPP posted new billboards in response to anti-marijuana billboards posted near the Super Bowl.

On Tuesday, MPP unveiled a series of billboards surrounding MetLife Stadium, site of the upcoming Super Bowl, that have been getting a lot of attention. These ads highlight the fact that marijuana is objectively safer than both alcohol and football, and call on the NFL to stop punishing players for using the safer option.

This is especially noteworthy this year, as the two teams playing in the Super Bowl are the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, both of whose home states made marijuana legal for adults in 2012.

Here’s a pictureBillboard of one of the ads from the ground, and you can view the rest on our website.

On Wednesday, MPP’s Mason Tvert presented a Change.org petition calling on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to get rid of the policy of punishing players for using marijuana. The petition currently has more than 12,000 signatures.