DOJ Will Let Washington, Colorado Marijuana Laws Go Into Effect

WASHINGTON — The United States government took a historic step back from its long-running drug war on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults.

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Medical Marijuana Pot Deadline Near

Massachusetts — People who want to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts have until Thursday to hand-deliver their initial application to the state Department of Public Health.
“The Department has created a solid regulatory framework for this new industry, and now we are ready to move forward with the competitive application process,” DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said in a press release.

“We are committed to a fully transparent process that respects patient needs, while ensuring safe communities.”The law, approved by voters last November, allows for up to 35 dispensaries in the state.

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Why Pot Makes You Feel Good

Last week, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta grabbed headlines for coming out in support of the validity of the medical use of marijuana, something he had opposed in the past. What changed his mind? Science. Here’s what he — and those studying the chemistry of marijuana — now understand.
Marijuana makes chemical contact with human bodies through cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds in marijuana (cannabis). The human body also creates cannabinoids. The body creates cannabinoids on-demand, such as when they are produced to serve as neuroprotectants when the brain’s nerve cells begin to fire too much, as in the case of stress, seizures or an impact to the brain. Our bodies also have cannabinoid receptors. Together, the cannabinoids and their receptors make up the human cannabinoid system.

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Agency Denies MJ Is Less Toxic Than Alcohol

The National Institute on Drug Abuse released an eyebrow-raising statement to PolitiFact on Monday, denying that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol.
“Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual,” wrote the institute. NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, funds government-backed scientific research and has a stated mission “to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction.”

The statement was in response to a declaration by the pro-pot policy group Marijuana Policy Project that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol –- a claim that was the centerpiece of a controversial pro-marijuana commercial aired during a NASCAR race last month.

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White House Won’t Say If Obama’s Medical Marijuana Stance May Be Swayed By Sanjay Gupta (VIDEO)

WASHINGTON — The White House declined to weigh in Tuesday on whether President Barack Obama has changed his position on medical marijuana use after the president’s onetime choice for surgeon general, Sanjay Gupta, reversed his stance and apologized for misleading the public on the drug’s effects.

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Pressure On Obama To Override The Legalization Of Marijuana In Washington State

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11 Rules for Legal Pot in Colorado

Earlier this morning I noted the final meeting of the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, which is advising the Colorado General Assembly about how to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana for recreational use. Here are some of the most significant recommendations approved this week and last:

1. Require both state and local approval for marijuana stores.

2. For the first year, retail licenses should be limited to current operators of medical marijuana centers (MMCs).

3. Pot stores should be required to grow at least 70 percent of what they sell to consumers and sell no more than 30 percent of what they grow to other stores or producers of cannabis-infused products. This is the current rule for MMCs, many of which fought to keep it. It would expire after three years, at which point the legislature could choose a more flexible approach that neither requires nor bans vertical integration.

4. Advertising should be restricted, which depending on the details could invite challenges under the Colorado constitution’s free speech clause (but not under the First Amendment, since marijuana is still prohibited by federal law).

5. THC content should not be restricted, but it should be listed on packages.

6. The legislature should consider requiring “child-proof” packaging for marijuana products, which would increase retail prices.

7. Visitors as well as residents of Colorado should be allowed to buy marijuana, as long as they are 21 or older.

8. The amount of marijuana a consumer may buy in a single purchase should be capped at a level below the one-ounce limit that Amendment 64 puts on possession, perhaps an eighth of an ounce, for both visitors and residents.

9. Marijuana should be taxed heavily, with a 15 percent excise tax imposed at the wholesale level and a special sales tax, perhaps as high as 25 percent, imposed at the retail level, in addition to existing state and local sales taxes (which total 8 percent in Denver, for example). Depending on how high the rates are and how they interact with markups, this triple whammy could push retail prices close to the black-market level, which would undermine the central aim of Amendment 64 to create a legal market in which marijuana is treated like alcohol.

10. The legislature should amend the state ban on smoking in bars and restaurants so that it covers recreational marijuana.

11. Home cultivation, which is permitted by Amendment 64, should be kept indoors.

These proposals are mostly bad news for consumers, although the recommendations against THC limits and residence-based restrictions on purchases are welcome. The former would be arbitrary and unworkable, while the latter would be unenforceable and inconsistent with the language of Amendment 64.

Update: According to University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin, a member of the task force, part of the motivation for proposing a special sales tax was the difficulty of assessing and collecting an excise tax when the same entity is both wholesaler and retailer, as required by the 70/30 rule. He says some members of the task force repeatedly warned that setting taxes too high would push consumers back into the black market.

Kamin says there was a consensus that Amendment 64, which lets people transfer up to an ounce of marijuana “without remuneration,” does not allow them to give away marijuana while soliciting “donations,” but that position was not part of a formal recommendation. He says the task force also did not make a recommendation about on-site consumption, except for saying that pot smoking in businesses should be banned under the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. That would leave open the possibility of allowing people to use vaporizers or eat marijuana edibles in a café-like environment, either at marijuana retailers or in bars and restaurants where people could bring their own pot.

Another unresolved (and related) question: What does it mean to consume marijuana “openly and publicly,” which remains illegal under Amendment 64? If you smoke pot on your front porch, is that “openly and publicly”? What about the back yard? Since consumption is prohibited only when it is open and public, it should be possible to smoke pot on public property (a park, say) as long as you are discreet. Conversely, consuming marijuana while sitting on a restaurant’s patio arguably would not be public (since it’s on private property) but would be open. Kamin says this issue was so contentious that the task force did not take a position in it.

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Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with nearly 17 million Americans age 12 and older reporting past‐month use, and 374,000 people entering an emergency room annually with a primary marijuana problem. The downward trend in youth marijuana use during the late 1990s has ended. According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, past‐month marijuana use among 12‐ to 17‐year‐olds climbed 9 percent from 2008 (6.7%) to 2009 (7.3%), as shown in figure 1.

Not surprisingly, this increase coincides with a softening of youth attitudes about the risks of marijuana (figure 1). Among 12‐ to 17‐year‐olds, theperception of great risk in smoking marijuana once a month declined from 2008 (33.9%) to 2009 (30.7%).

Recently, there have been increasing efforts to legalize marijuana. The Obama Administration has consistently reiterated its firm opposition to any
form of drug legalization. Together with Federal partners and state and local officials, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is working to reduce the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs through development of strategies that fully integrate the principles of prevention, treatment, recovery, and effective supply reduction efforts. Proposals such as legalization that would promote marijuana use are inconsistent with this public health and safety approach.

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Physicist: If All Science Were Run Like Marijuana Research, Creationists Would Control Paleontology

In the face of obstacles to marijuana research from both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and one-time MacArthur Fellow is calling out the federal government on its obstruction of science.

During an address before a  medical marijuana conference Friday, John H. Schwartz explained how the DEA and NIDA act as a “tag team” to censor science, with NIDA holding a monopoly over legal access to cannabis for research, and the DEA  refusing to reconsider the drug’s designation in the Controlled Substances Act as a dangerous substance with no medical value on the basis that sufficient research does not exist. He alleges that the government has blocked research even though it has long been aware of marijuana’s potential to serve many medical benefits including shrink aggressive cancer cells is because it might “send the wrong message to children”:

The most blatant example of this behavior came last year, when NIDA blocked an FDA-approved clinical trial testing marijuana as a remedy for post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It’s especially sad to note that the study participants were veterans, with PTSD deemed untreatable by other means. After 12 years of war, this is how we treat them. […]

As a physicist, I can assure you that this not how physics works. … We are all expected to act like grownups and accept it gracefully as experiments prove our favorite theories are false.  In physics, unlike marijuana policy, we consider the right message to send to be the message that’s true. […]

Consider what American science might look like if all research were run like marijuana research is being run now. Suppose the Institute for Creation Science were put in charge of approving paleontology digs and the science of human evolution. Imagine what would happen to the environment if we gave coal and oil companies the power to block any climate research they didn’t like.

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Silicon Valley Is High on Innovation. And Pot

Being a computer coder takes a physical toll. The long hours sitting at a keyboard can cause back and wrist pain. You can run to a pharmacy and pick up some Advil, or if you’re in Silicon Valley, you can drop by the Palliative Health Center for some Sour Diesel. Palliative Health is a medical marijuana dispensary, one of many in San Jose, Calif. Inside, iPads are mounted on pedestals so patients can scroll through and check prices and availability of Sour Diesel, Chem Dog, and a dozen or so other strains. The shop offers marijuana-infused sodas, muffins, and chocolates, and monthly classes on cooking with cannabis.

Around 40 percent of Palliative Health’s clients are tech workers, says Ernie Arreola, 38, the assistant manager. “We’re seeing people from some semiconductors, lots of engineers, lots of programmers,” he says. That makes sense, because the shop is an easy shot from some of the area’s biggest employers—Cisco Systems (CSCO), Google (GOOG), Adobe Systems (ADBE), Apple (AAPL), EBay (EBAY)—and a short drive from dozens more. Also, people in Silicon Valley do like their pot.

San Jose is the medical marijuana capital of the Bay Area. The city has 106 pot clinics (four are delivery-only)—more than four times the number in San Francisco, twice as many per square mile as Los Angeles, and, according to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, “many more than are necessary to meet the medical needs of our population.”

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