WA. Gov on Pot Meeting With Eric Holder: The Feds Are Cool — So Far

24 Jan

meeting shelf3d.comIt’s not that Washington state officials refuse to back down to the federal government in regards to implementing marijuana laws, it’s that they don’t have to. According to Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee, their meeting this week with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave no indication that Washington was inviting big federal heat.

“Today, we had a cordial, successful first meeting,” Ferguson said.

“Governor Inslee and I communicated Washington state’s intention to move forward in implementing I-502. We have assembled a legal team in the Attorney General’s Office, and I have made legal implementation of this initiative a top priority. This will be an on-going discussion, and we plan to continue our dialogue with Attorney General Holder in the coming months.”

Likewise, the former Congressman said he found the meeting with Holder to be a “confidence builder” and that he heard nothing that would dissuade state officials from moving forward with creating and implementing rules for recreational use of cannabis.

“We spent some time talking about how the initiative would work, how the regulatory process would work. He listened with great interest, and I appreciated that,” Inslee said in a press briefing in Olympia Thursday.

 

First Public Forum on I-502 Implementation Draws Big Crowd in Wa. State Capital

24 Jan
Justin Pitts runs a cannabis testing lab in Spokane and spoke in Olympia Jan. 23. SOURCE: KPLU

Justin Pitts runs a cannabis testing lab in Spokane and spoke in Olympia Jan. 22. SOURCE: KPLU

“Wow.”

That was literally the first word out of the mouth of Washington State Liquor Control Board Chairman Sharon Foster Tuesday night in Olympia, WA., after seeing an ocean of citizens flood the first public forum on the implementation of I-502.

“You are our guinea pigs … and it’s my guess that there are a lot of folks out there who hace not visited the Liquor Control Board before … but we are considering changing the name to add  ‘Marijuana’ or “Cannabis’ to that board name,” Foster told the crowd.

A loud round of applause poured forth.

“We really did want to hear from everyone across the state about what your thoughts are about 502,” Foster said.

Well, this should get very interesting, considering that in Washington State, or at least in Seattle, rule by committee and consensus has led to years of dithering and endless debate on such issues as public schools and transportation. It’s the good and the bad of a state that is not steeped in decades of Tammany Hall/back room dealings.

Six public forums are scheduled, but, as the LCB said in true Washingtonian fashion … “If we need another 60 …”

Oy.

The LCB board members are clearly enthused by the public’s exuberance about the process towards licensing growers, distributors and retail outlets.  The 502 referendum allows for flexibility, as evidenced by the willingness to take a HUGE survey of citizens.

For more reading about the first public forum, Erik Smith of the Washington State Wire was on the scene.

Can Anti-Legalization Crusaders Muck Up Washington State’s Ambitious Cannabis Timetable?

21 Jan

source: smokingwithstyle.com

source: smokingwithstyle.com

The word on the streets, or at least among some medical marijuana dispensary owners, is that Washington state’s plan to license producers, growers and retailers by Dec. 5, 2013 is, well, ambitious at best.  And if that timetable turns out to be unrealistic, then there’s more room for drug war stalwarts to try and reclaim some of the moral if not legal high ground. 

To that end, Rolling Stone put up a kind “Most Wanted” List of “Legalization’s Biggest Enemies.”  The piece sites an earlier report by The New Republic, which demonstrated how little cash and clout was put up by legalization opponents as compared to the millions spent by George Soros and others to push I-502 over the top.

Thanks, in part, to George Soros and Progressive Insurance Chairman Peter Lewis (who fund the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project, respectively) proponents of Washington State’s Initiative 502 raised $6.2 million; their opponents raised only $15,995. In Colorado, backers of Amendment 64 raised $2.39 million, to their opponents’ $577,410. In Massachusetts, $1.07 million for a medical marijuana initiative; $5,950 against. Even in Arkansas and Oregon, states where the measures ultimately failed, legalization proponents outraised opponents by wide margins.

 

How much momentum or aggregated effort these anti-legalization “warriors” can obtain remains to be seen. Rolling Stone quotes Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, who says the “genie is already out of the bottle, and it cannot be put back in.”

While there are actions the federal government and its U.S. Attorneys could theoretically take to – in the short term – impede the full implementation of a legal retail cannabis market in Colorado, Washington, and potentially elsewhere, the reality is that federal officials ultimately lack the manpower, public support, and as a consequence, the political will to – in the long term – turn back cannabis legalization.” 

Let The Cannabis Argument Begin: Pennsylvania Lawmakers Blowing Smoke

19 Jan
PA. Sen. Daylin Leach loves freedom and chicken-suited constituents.

PA. Sen. Daylin Leach loves freedom and chicken-suited constituents.

Let’s, for the sake of argument, call what is happening in Pennsylvania the start of a discussion about cannabis, even though the “conversation” has quickly veered from rational discussion into fact-checking and reality-checking.

State Sen. Daylin Leach has announced his intention to introduce legislation to decriminalize the consumption of cannabis for anyone over 21 — regardless of the purpose of that consumption. In other words, Do Not Pass Go and Focus on Medical Marijuana, Go Directly to Recreational Use.

This past November, the people of Washington State and Colorado voted to fully legalize marijuana. Other places, including California, have had de facto legalization for some time. This week, I will introduce legislation which would have Pennsylvania join these other states in ending this modern-day prohibition. My bill will legalize the consumption of marijuana for adults over the age of twenty one, without regard to the purpose of that consumption. Here’s why:

For the past 75 years, our marijuana policy has been foolish, ill-conceived, costly and destructive, and it must end. We have been waging a “war on drugs” that includes treating the use of Marijuana as a matter for the criminal justice system. We have spent billions of dollars investigating, prosecuting, incarcerating and monitoring millions of our fellow citizens who have hurt no one, damaged no property, breached no peace. Their only “crime” was smoking a plant which made them feel a bit giddy.

People across our Commonwealth have spent time in prison, lost time at work, been forced to hire lawyers and had their lives disrupted and sometimes destroyed because they used a product less dangerous than beer, less risky than children’s cough syrup, less addictive than chocolate and whose societal harm comes from its prohibition rather than its use.

Leach is a Philly Democrat and, besides being very funny and self-deprecating, is forward-leaning and rationally vocal about many issues that, frankly, Pennsylvania remains behind the times about, including gay marriage. But no sooner did Leach step forward with his proposal, out came some of his legislative colleagues with their own version of what legalizing cannabis would mean in the Keystone State. Here is one rebuttal of Leach’s proposal:

Rep. Doyle Heffley: Marijuana legalization is dangerous to Pennsylvania’s youth.

Pennsylvania’s drug-induced deaths rank higher than the national average. In fact, a few years ago, more than 1,800 residents of Pennsylvania died as a direct consequence of drug use, compared to the number of Pennsylvanians who died from motor vehicle accidents (1,604) and firearms (1,325) in that same year.

In Carbon County alone, there’s been a sharp increase in drug overdose-related deaths since 1996. In 2007, four adults died of drug overdoses in our county. That figure spiked significantly in 2010, when 18 county residents, including one person under the age of 21, died of drug overdoses.

With marijuana being the second most abused drug in Pennsylvania, I can’t help but wonder why some state lawmakers are pushing legislation to legalize recreational use of this gateway drug.

State Rep. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), in his recent opinion-editorial, “Legalize Marijuana: We’re Locking Up Pennsylvanians for No Reason at Great Cost,” said the only crime committed by those who smoke marijuana is “smoking a plant which makes them feel giddy,” and that the perception of marijuana being a gateway drug is false.

Well, here are the facts.

A 2012 Yale University study, which appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana were associated with an increased likelihood of prescription drug abuse in men ages 18 to 25. In women of that age, marijuana use was also linked with a higher likelihood of prescription drug abuse.

More specifically, the Yale researchers focused on a sample of more than 55,000 18- to 25-year-olds. Of those, about 12 percent reported that they were abusing prescription opioids. Of the group abusing these drugs, more than 34 percent had used marijuana. Among both men and women, those who had used marijuana were 2.5 times more likely than those their age who abstained to later dabble in prescription drugs.

Perhaps it’s a mere coincidence that the most abused drug in Pennsylvania is heroine? After all, the increase in prescription drug abuse is fueling a rise in heroin addiction, according to a recent NBC News report. A growing number of young people who start abusing expensive prescription drugs are switching to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to buy.

According to Pennsylvania’s most recent “Youth Survey Report” results, nearly 20 percent of students in grades six, eight, 10, 12 across the Commonwealth admitted to using marijuana at least once in their lifetimes. More than 5 percent of those students also admitted to abusing painkillers.

Marijuana legalization brings questions to the minds of parents and causes confusion for our children. Frighteningly, it can also cause the misperception that marijuana is not a harmful drug.

Studies have shown that teen marijuana use can aggravate depression and affect the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is not fully developed in teens. The list of negative affects is long, but that message can be challenged in the minds of our youth with marijuana legalization.

It is important that parents in Carbon County and the entire state keep talking to their kids about the harmful effects of marijuana and educate themselves on marijuana facts.

I am hosting a free Carbon County Drug and Alcohol Awareness Expo on Thursday, April 18, from 6-8 p.m. at the Lehighton Area High School, for parents and educators to gather more information on substance abuse.

Keep the message straight with the youth across the Commonwealth: Despite talks of legalization, marijuana is still a dangerous drug.

 

That was hardly the end of the discussion. Leach — who has made the rounds on PA radio and TV — countered with his own release, debunking the arguments made by Rep. Heffley.

Open letter to Representative Doyle Heffley:
Dear Representative Heffley:
       Today you issued a press release (pasted below) which I saw on Capitolwire. In it you mentioned both my name and my bill to legalize marijuana. I welcome the discussion. I do however feel that some of the factual assertions and implications in your press release are misleading. So I thought it would be enlightening for people to have the other side of the story available to them. Thus, I am taking the liberty of penning this reply.
       First, you begin your press release by pointing out that 1,800 Pennsylvanians died “as a direct consequence of drug use” and that 18 residents of your county died of “drug overdoses” in a recent year. You then, two paragraphs later, assert that marijuana is “the second most abused drug in Pennsylvania.” Unfortunately, the structure of your missive conflates two totally unrelated things. It implies that a) people die of drug abuse and b) marijuana is a highly abused drug, therefore implying that people are dying of marijuana overdoses.
       This is untrue. It is important to point out that the number of people who die each year “as a direct consequence” of marijuana use is exactly zero. It is physically impossible to overdose on marijuana as one might on alcohol, heroin or cocaine. So people should understand that out of the 1,800 Pennsylvanians who die from overdosing on drugs each year, marijuana is responsible for 0% of those deaths.
      Further, not to pick too many nits, but I feel you were a bit sloppy in your terminology in this opening section of your press release. You say that marijuana is “the second most abused drug” in Pennsylvania. You cite no source for that information, but more to the point, that is only even theoretically true if you consider all marijuana use to be abuse. And the only way you can do that is to equate illegality with abuse. Because in terms of actual use, most people who use marijuana do not “abuse” it.
     A middle-aged business executive who comes home from work and has a hit of a marijuana cigarette no more “abuses” pot than the same man who comes home and has a glass of wine “abuses” alcohol. Most marijuana users use it responsibly and do not “abuse” it. And further, since marijuana is not physically addictive and you cannot overdose on it, it becomes much more difficult to “abuse” it at all.
     Then, in the heart of your argument, you say my legalization bill is bad because marijuana is a “gateway drug” and you cite a Yale Study in support of your position. Before getting into what the study actually says, I would just note that I find the whole concept of marijuana being a “gateway drug” sort of amorphous. Different people define that differently. I’m not sure what you mean.
     You could be saying that there is some physical property of marijuana that causes people to try other drugs. You could be saying that a willingness to try one intoxicant somehow predicts a willingness to try others, but more-so in the case of marijuana. However, as I shall soon demonstrate, neither of these things is true.
     The only theoretical way marijuana could be a gateway drug is the requirement that one buy it illegally, from a criminal. When one goes into a State Store and buys a bottle of Citron, the clerk behind the counter is unlikely to say that he has Cocaine available as well. But when one buys pot behind a bowling ally, that is much more likely to happen, which makes the gateway effect a consequence of prohibition, not of marijuana itself.
      But lets look at what your study says. Sadly, I think you cherry-picked the study’s conclusions and created a false impression. First, here is the link to the study if anyone wants to check it out for themselves. http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00231-5/abstract.
      You say in your press release that of people in the study who abused prescription drugs, “more than 34 percent had used marijuana”. You clearly are hoping that people draw the conclusion that there is a causal effect between the use of pot and the eventual migration to prescription drug abuse.
       Yet, that is misleading. For reasons that one can only assume relate to how inconvenient they are for your argument, you leave out certain key facts. Specifically, you leave out the rest of the sentence you cite, In its entirety, the sentence says: “For this population [prescription drug abusers], prevalence of previous substance use was 57% for alcohol, 56% for cigarettes, and 34% for marijuana”.
        This paints a very different picture, does it not? The facts are that those who abuse prescription drugs are ALMOST TWICE AS LIKELY to have previously used either booze or tobacco than marijuana. Yet, you are fine with people buying, selling, using, tobacco and alcohol. Yet someone who uses marijuana should be considered a criminal and face prosecution?
       When you include all of the facts, you are either making the case FOR not AGAINST marijuana legalization, or you are making the case for banning alcohol and tobacco. The fact is that anything bad you can say about marijuana’s health effects, or “gateway” effects, or intoxication effects, you can say far worse about alcohol and tobacco.
       You then cite an additional fact that does not support your conclusion that prohibition is a good policy. You say that according to PA Youth Survey Report 5% of kids who have tried marijuana “at least once in their lifetimes” have “admitted abusing painkillers“. Wow. First, according to your own press release, 95% of those who tried marijuana did not go on to abuse prescription painkillers. So if marijuana is a “gateway drug“, its a really ineffective one.
       Further, those number, standing alone, are utterly meaningless. How many of those kids also drank, or smoked cigarettes? In fact, neither this study, nor the Yale study you cite makes any claims about causation between marijuana use and the use of other drugs, thus lending no support to prohibition on this basis. If you want to see actual studies, here are a few of the leading studies that have show NO LINK between marijuana use and hard drugs:
    Of course all of this talk about marijuana’s effect on young people ignores the fact that my bill only allows marijuana use, possession and purchase for people over 21 years of age.
     I hope there is one thing we can agree on. I hope we can agree that these important public policy decisions should be made based on sound, actual science, and not old wives’ tales or irrational fears. I hope both of us feel that we should look at the data and make decisions based on an objective review of where that data takes us.
     My own view is that any honest look at the science will show that far more harm is caused by prohibition than by marijuana use, and that far more damage is done by treating people as criminals, giving them criminal records, forcing people to buy marijuana underground, forcing the creation of an often violent black-market, then is caused by the actual use of a plant which is non-addictive, and is far less harmful than tobacco and alcohol, which are perfectly legal. I hope you look at the science closely, and if it shows what it does show, you will join me in supporting an end to this cruel, heartless, and pernicious prohibition that is destroying so many lives.
Daylin

Let’s Talk About Cannabis, Baby: Public Hearings on I-502 Are Now Set

16 Jan

notice_of_public_hearingNothing beats public hearings for a great night of entertainment, at least for those of us so inclined to observe democracy play itself out in real time. And what could be more enticing than public hearings about pot?

Forget “Downton Abbey.” Our money is on the 6 public hearings scheduled across Washington state over the next two months where citizens can have a forum with the Liquor Control Board about the rules for implementing I-502.

“Clearly there is passion about what Washington’s system of legal marijuana will look like when fully implemented,” said LCB Chair Sharon Foster said.

“This is an opportunity for the public to meet the Board and staff involved in implementation, learn about our role in implementation, and to provide testimony. We appreciate the cooperation of the Association of Washington Cities for their help in arranging these forums.”

 

Schedule (2013)
1/22: WSLCB Headquarters, Conference Room 201
• 3000 Pacific Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501

1/24: Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room
• 600 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

02/7: Clark College, Vancouver, Foster Auditorium
• 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, WA 98663

02/12: Spokane City Hall, Council Chambers
• 808 W Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99201

02/19: Skagit Valley College, Mt. Vernon, Theater
• 2405 East College Way, Mount Vernon, WA 98273

02/21: Yakima City Hall, Council Chambers
• 129 North Second St, Yakima, WA 98901

Agenda
• 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Open house with Board and staff
• 7:00 – 7:05 p.m. Board welcome
• 7:05 – 7:15 p.m. Overview of Board’s role in implementation and timeline
• 7:15 – 10:00 p.m. Public testimony

 

2,500 People Sign Up For I-502 Updates From WA. State Liquor Control Board

15 Jan

Image

Look Ma! They’re trying to figure out how to make pot legal! Source: artstechnica.com

The Washington State Liquor Control Board reports that 2,500 people have signed up to get Listserve updates about implementation of I-502. 

Additionally, the LCB is almost ready to announce where and when it will hold 6 public meetings on I-502.

Here is the Jan. 15, 2013 update:

 

“There is clearly a lot of interest in this topic. Until today, it’s been quiet because we have not had reason to report.  Today we have some news to report.
 
Three Updates

There are three updates that we are reporting today.

1)   RFP Registration. Below you will find the registration process to become eligible to be the marijuana consultant that the WSLCB is seeking as it implements I-502. It is a Request for Proposals (RFP) process. The details of the RFP will not be available until Tuesday January 15, 2013, at the earliest. However, if you are interested in submitting a bid to be considered you will need to register first. The details are below.

 

2)   RFP Timeline. Below the registration information is the timeline for the RFP. The WSLCB is prohibited by law from providing individual consultation to potential vendors while the RFP is in process. There will be a bidder conference mid-way through the process to answer questions, etc. Please see the below timeline for details.

 

3)   Public Forums. The final update is that the WSLCB will be holding evening forums in six locations across Washington. These forums are an opportunity for you to meet some people from the WSLCB involved in implementation, learn how implementation is and will continue to proceed and an opportunity for you to provide testimony to the Board on your ideas for their consideration. The forums will begin in late January and run until mid-February. The schedule will be announced next week via the listserv and posted on the I-502 implementation section of the WSLCB website. As always, we will accept input in writing.

 
Requests for Proposals Registration

The WSLCB anticipates that it will release Request for Proposals (RFP) K430 for Initiative 502 Consulting Services on January 15, 2013. The RFP will be posted on the State’s online vendor registration and bidder notification system, Washington’s Electronic Business Solution (WEBS).

 

Important: Vendors interested in responding to RFP K430 must register and download the RFP document from WEBS.

 
RFP Registration:

Please visit: http://des.wa.gov/services/ContractingPurchasing/Business/Pages/WEBSRegistration.aspx to register and/or obtain additional information about WEBS. For questions about WEBS and the registration process, please contact WEBS customer service at (360) 902-7400 or [log in to unmask].

 

The WSLCB expects to post RFP K430 under the WEBS Commodity Codes listed below. To ensure your firm receives RFP K430 notifications, please ensure to register under at least one (1) of the Commodity Code(s) below applicable to your firm:

 
Commodity Code
Description
918-09
Agricultural Consulting
918-12

Analytical Studies & Surveys

918-32

Consulting Services – Not Otherwise Classified

918-58
Governmental Consulting
918-62
Horticultural Consulting
918-75
Management Consulting
 

Please note: The WEBS system is utilized by all Washington State agencies. By registering in WEBS, your firm will also receive email notification(s) for bids posted under the commodity code(s) for which your firm registers. Thank you for your interest in doing business with the state of Washington.

 
RFP Tentative Timeline

The WSLCB is seeking a consultant for various aspects of the implementation of Initiative 502. The below is a tentative timeline for that process.

 
Date (2013)
Milestone

Jan. 11

WSLCB Listserv notice

Jan. 15

RFP is publicly released via WEBS

Jan. 30

Bidders Conference (Tacoma site TBD).

Feb. 15

2:00 p.m. deadline for bids

Mar. 04

Completion of bid/vendor review and scoring process

Mar. 05

Apparent successful vendor announced via WSLCB listserv, etc.

Mar. 15

Award contract

 

Keep Matt Free? Barack Obama Getting First Test On Whether Feds Really Are Frying Bigger Fish

15 Jan
Image

Matt Davies: Not a drug lord.

Matt Davies doesn’t understand what the federal government is trying to do to him.

He’s not alone.

Are federal agents so dead set on enforcing federal law in states that have legalized medical and recreational use of cannabis that they want to make an example of the 32-year-old father of two?

Or is Davies the unfortunate target of a zealous prosecutor who has cherry-picked Davies out of the hundreds of state-law compliant cannabis providers in California?

There’s little doubt that this case of a medical marijuana dispensary owner in California  indicted by federal authorities is going to be watched here in Washington, where state officials are now concocting rules for issuing cannabis producer licenses under newly approved I-502.

Davies’ case should erase any doubts about the serious legal discrepancies between states that allow cannabis production, distribution or possession and the federal government, whose agents are, indeed, eager and willing to bring the heat.

Things are so dire for Davies, there is a website devoted to his case: Keep Matt Free. It’s an understandable public relations campaign given the circumstances. Davies faces 7-to-40 years in prison after he was indicted by U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in the Eastern District of California. His crime? He opened Medizen, a medical marijuana dispensary that was in complete compliance with California state laws for medical marijuana.

The main argument being used by Matt Davies and his supporters is that at least in this case, prosecutors appear to be at odds with Obama’s recent statements about not prosecuting individual users. This is now the “Bigger Fish To Fry” argument that many have seen as Obama’s nod to easing back on drug war.

However, Obama was not specifically asked about medical marijuana dispensaries that were cultivating 2,000 cannabis plants in a Stockton warehouse. Davies and his attorneys have little choice but to appeal to Holder and Obama for clarification, or intervention. But will Davies and others like what the Obama and Holder say, or don’t say, when it comes to this case?

That is a very large question. And everyone from Seattle to Denver to Stockton is going to be eager to see what comes next.

But if Matt Davies has to accept a plea deal, or go to trial, then this case could become another milestone in the movement toward decriminalization.

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