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Marijuana News in Colorado and World

NY Marijuana Legalization
New York state Senator Liz Krueger just revealed plans to introduce the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in January which could very well lead to New York legalizing and taxing marijuana for adults as soon as 2015.

If the senator’s bill passes, it would allow retail marijuana stores to open under the supervision of the State Liquor Authority. Adults 21 years and older would in turn be allowed to possess two ounces of marijuana for personal use as well as to grow up to six plants in their home.

New York has been in the medical marijuana news recently for becoming the 23rd state in the US to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Krueger says that, “The real motivation for this bill comes from the fact that we have spent decades attempting to do prohibition and a war on drugs that has actually done nothing and is particularly ruining the lives of young people of color and having them go into the criminal justice system and come out with the kind of citations that limit their access to financial aid for college and exposes them to a criminal justice system that, frankly, I do not believe they should have been exposed to in the first place, for simply using a drug that is proved to be less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. It is a win-win to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it and tax it.”

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Colorado Retail Marijuana
Colorado has reported that sales of recreational marijuana for the month of July have surpassed medical marijuana sales, marking the first time this has happened in the 9 months since recreational marijuana was legalized.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, customers bought $29.7 million worth of recreational marijuana, while medical marijuana sales came in at $28.9 million. Since retail sales first began, dispensaries have sold roughly $145 million of marijuana. When combined with medical marijuana sales, the state of Colorado has sold a staggering $350 million worth of marijuana since January 2014.

Over 55% of residents support Colorado’s recreational marijuana movement.

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Gobal Commission Drug Policy
A new report published this week by former world leaders states that drug use should be decriminalized and governments should look into the idea of broad scale legalization.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy’s ideas are also shared by some of the leaders of the countries that have been most affected by the illegal drug market.  They argue, that not only is the war on drugs pointless, it is also the main reason for the crime and violence it was originally set up to prevent.

Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general says, “The facts speak for themselves. We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails, but also to severe health and social problems.”

A report in 2011 came to a similar conclusion, and even went so far as to suggest some recommendations for the policy currently in place. They feel that drug use and possession in regards to laws that disproportionately affect certain groups or minorities should be decriminalized. The report also suggests that experimental legalization, like in Colorado and Washington, should be done on a much larger scale in other countries. They believe that marijuana is a good place to start, but that it should not be limited there.

They go on to suggest that low level, non-violent drug dealers should not be sent to jail, but instead disciplined in a different and more humane way.  The spokeswoman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Cameron Hardesty, seems to agree on this point. She says, “We agree that we should use science-based approaches, rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders, and ensure access to pain medications. Our goals are not so dissimilar from the goals of the Global Commission. However, we disagree that legalization of drugs will make people healthier and communities safer.”

It will be great to see other states in the US following the example set by Colorado and Washington in the upcoming elections in regards to the recreational use of marijuana, as well as to see how Uruguay’s model of nationwide marijuana legalization works out. One thing is for certain - the current policy has to change.

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Painkillers Marijuana
While the majority of Americans are coming around to the idea that marijuana can be valuable, whether it be for recreational or medical purposes, the opposition is looking to a team of researchers in hopes that they can scare and influence policymakers into continuing to believe that marijuana is a dangerous substance.  They claim the lack of testing that has been done on marijuana makes it a risky alternative to modern medicine.

It appears a great number of these researchers are receiving compensation by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry to remain anti-marijuana.  The main reason being that marijuana could easily take the place of some of these companies’ highest grossing drugs.

Many credible doctors who have spoken publicly about the “dangers” associated with marijuana use are getting paid by large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, creator of the painkiller, OcyContin.

People in the marijuana field feel that some of these doctors’ financial arrangements with big pharmaceutical companies should be considered a conflict of interest.  Studies done on marijuana in association with pain relief have shown that it is a viable replacement for addictive opiates which mimic the effects of heroin.  What they fail to mention, however, is that prescription painkillers are responsible for roughly 16,000 overdose deaths annually, while no one in recorded history has ever overdosed from marijuana use.

Nation magazine ran a story in July which stated that many of the largest anti-marijuana advocacy groups rely on funding from painkiller manufacturing companies such as Purdue Pharma.  While these companies fill the general public’s heads with skewed opinions, they take away from one of the biggest problems facing the US, which is the over-prescribing of painkillers.

Meanwhile these companies pump more and more painkillers into the hands of the unsuspecting American public every single day because the media often tells them that opioids are a safer alternative to using the all-natural remedy, marijuana.

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Berkeley Dispensaries
The Berkeley City Council in California has decided that medical marijuana dispensaries should give a break to patients who can’t afford to buy their marijuana at dispensaries.

The City Council unanimously voted on a measure that will force medical marijuana dispensaries to donate 2% of their inventory to state-approved medical marijuana patients who pull in less than $32,000 annually.

The program just passed and is expected to be underway by mid-2015.

Low income residents in need of medical marijuana are extremely pleased that this measure passed allowing them to get the relief they so desperately need, but struggle to afford.

California has allowed medical marijuana in the state for over 20 years and many California dispensaries have voluntarily provided medical marijuana to patients in need.

The Berkeley Patients group is a dispensary that has been giving marijuana to its patients for over 10 years. They believe that no one should be turned away based solely on their income.

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Marijuana Research
The federal government has decided to increase their marijuana supply for research purposes.  The DEA announced last week that they will increase their marijuana production quota from a meager 21 kilograms to a whopping 650 kilograms in order to meet demand.

A farm at the University of Mississippi in Oxford is federally permitted to grow a set amount of marijuana to be used in clinical trials.  All protocol must first be approved by the DEA, FDA, and the US National Institute on Drug Abuse before administering marijuana to human test subjects.

Marijuana advocates have been quick to point out that in the past the majority of the research being done by the federal government on marijuana has been designed to point out all the potential harms rather than the many therapeutic benefits.

A spokesman for the research said, “The additional supply of cannabis to be manufactured in 2014 is designed to meet the current and anticipated research efforts involving marijuana.  This projection of increased demand is due in part to the recent increased interest in the possible therapeutic uses of marijuana.”

There are currently eight trials being done on marijuana’s effects on humans, but only two are devoted to researching the plant’s benefits.

Santa Fe Marijuana

Santa Fe has became the latest US city to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Santa Fe City Council voted five to four in favor of revising a law to classify possession of less than one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana to only a misdemeanor.

The new law, which will take effect in 30 days, reduces the criminal penalties that range from fines of between $50 to $100 and up to 15 days in jail, into a (still undetermined) civil citation penalty.

“I have been in favor of decriminalization all along, I just wanted this to be on the November ballot in order for the citizens to make the decision,” stated Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales.

New Mexico state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, Emily Kaltenbach, mentioned she hoped for a broader vote, but said: “It is still a historic win for us all.”

Kaltenbach said activists obtained some 11,000 signatures and that her polling revealed that more than 70 percent of Santa Fe residents supported decriminalization.

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Marijuana Opiods
Overdose deaths from pharmaceutical opioids, such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin, have nearly tripled since 1991. Every day 46 people die from such overdoses in the United States.

In the 13 states that passed legislation allowing for the use of medical marijuana between 1999 and 2010, 25% fewer people died from opioid overdoses annually. Currently, 35 states have passed laws to allow qualifying patients access to marijuana for medical purposes.

In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers hypothesized that in the states where medical marijuana is legal, patients may be using marijuana to treat pain by either replacing their prescription opiates or mixing the two; either way, the patients would likely be lowering their typical opiate dosage making it less likely to lead to a fatality.

“The difference is quite striking,” said study co-author Colleen Barry, a health policy researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. She told Newsweek that the shift showed up quite quickly and became visible the year after medical marijuana was legalized in each state.

It is a fact that marijuana is much less toxic than opiates like Percocet or morphine, and that it is basically impossible to overdose with marijuana, noted Barry.

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Marijuana Congress
The District of Columbia Board of Elections agreed to put an initiative on this November’s ballot that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in the district. This prompted an interesting question: Will Congress be allowed to use marijuana recreationally?

If passed, Initiative 71 will allow D.C. residents over the age of 21 to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana, cultivate up to six plants, and transfer (not sell) up to 1 ounce. All members of Congress who live in D.C. are adults, so technically they will be permitted to use marijuana at their leisure.

Marijuana possession is still illegal on federal property. So until marijuana is removed from the Schedule I substance list, it will not be allowed on federal property. Members of Congress won’t be able to light up at work, but they can at home – if they live in the district. “Possessing marijuana in their [Congress members'] own home would be legal under D.C. law, as it would be for anybody else,” said Bill Piper, the director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

And Initiative 71 does not include any additional provisions related to Congress either. A subsection addresses the professional workplace, but states that agencies, employers, and officers will not be required to allow their employees to use marijuana off the job. Basically, employers will still be allowed to enact their own drug-testing policies; but fortunately for members of Congress, their workplace doesn’t have one.

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DC Marijuana Legalization
Residents of Washington D.C. will vote this November on whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Marijuana advocates gathered more than 22,000 signatures in order to get the initiative on the ballot and the D.C. Board of elections unanimously voted in favor of the measure.

Mayor Vincent Gray signed into effect a decriminalization act in D.C. that as of last month allows residents to possess up to an ounce of marijuana on them with only the fear of a $25 fine and a civil offense.

Proponents of the legalization bill are confident that the House will not be able to block their initiative; however, there have been recent instances where residents have voted in favor of a measure that the mayor has chosen not to enforce.  It happened last year when voters approved an amendment that would have given the district the ability to spend local tax money without Congress’s approval, but it was declined by the mayor.

Congress was even able to delay the medical marijuana program in D.C. by ten whole years after it was approved by voters.

If the initiative is approved in November, residents would be allowed to grow 6 marijuana plants at their home and possess up to 2 ounces.  The sale of marijuana has yet to be addressed.