Colorado’s Marijuana Tax Revenue Now Exceeds Half A Billion Dollars

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State Rep. Jonathan Singer (D) accepts a novelty check for half a billion dollars from “The Cannabis Community” on Wednesday.

By Ryan Grenoble for The Huffington Post – In the three-and-a-half years since the state began allowing adults to purchase marijuana for recreational use, cannabis has contributed more than half a billion dollars in tax revenue to both state and local coffers. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Denver-based marijuana consulting firm VS Strategies. Based on data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, the firm tabulated that cannabis-related taxes from 2014 through mid-2017 totaled $506,143,635. That includes the taxes on purchases of marijuana for recreational or medical use, as well as fees paid by cannabis businesses. The tax figure is substantially more than some experts predicted in 2012 when Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana. At that time, some analysts projected the state would net between $5 and $22 million a year in taxes. VS Strategies spotlighted its report by presenting an oversize check for half a billion dollars Wednesday to Colorado state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D). A majority of money has gone to fund K-12 education (even with that, Colorado’s education funding badly lags behind most of the rest of the country). Amendment 64 requires the first $40 million in tax revenue be allotted for school construction.

Marijuana Legalization Is Decreasing Violent Crime In Border States

JOHN VIZCAINO / REUTERS
A new study found that states with legalized medical marijuana in 2013 saved $165.2 million in national Medicare program and enrollee spending.

By W. E. Messamore for IVN – In a paper published by The Economic Journal last month, a study by the Norwegian School of Economics in partnership with the Pennsylvania State University Department of Sociology and Criminology, found that marijuana legalization has led to a decrease in violent crime in U.S. states that border Mexico. Over the past several years, sweeping reforms to marijuana policies have reached a tipping point with legal medical marijuana now in more states (currently 29) than those that continue to prohibit the sale and consumption of the plant for medical or recreational purposes. The paper‘s authors say that not only is there a strong reduction in violent crime related to illegal drug trafficking in states and counties that border Mexico, but that when an inland state legalizes medical marijuana, there is a measurable reduction in violent drug trafficking crimes in the nearest border state: “We show that the introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) leads to a decrease in violent crime in states that border Mexico. The reduction in crime is strongest for counties close to the border (less than 350km), and for crimes that relate to drug trafficking. In addition, we find that MMLs in inland states lead to a reduction in crime in the nearest border state.”

Nevada Becomes Fifth State Where You Can Buy Legal Marijuana

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By Matt Ferner , Nick Wing for Huff Post. Adults who are at least 21 years old can now legally purchase recreational marijuana from select retail shops in Nevada. Sales began just after midnight on Saturday. There are a total of 44 licensed dispensaries around the state open for business so far, according to the Nevada Department of Taxation, which oversees the industry. Thirty-three shops in Las Vegas and four shops in Reno are among those that have licenses. Nevada joins Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in rejecting marijuana prohibition and legalizing the sale of weed for recreational purposes. A total of eight states ― along with the District of Columbia, which does not allow sales ― have already enacted laws to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana. Licensed dispensaries are expected to open for business next year in California, Maine and Massachusetts.

Small Marijuana Growers Create Marijuana Coops To Scale Up

Amber and Casey O’Neil, founders of the 40-member Emerald Grown cooperative, help independent farmers lower their costs by working together. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

By Paul Roberts for Leafly – Markets, like ecosystems, respond to massive disruption with a wave of experimentation and adaptation—and that’s certainly been the story in California’s cannabis sector. Ever since legalization upended the decades-old status quo, players have scrambled to develop new business strategies to exploit the chaos—or simply survive it. By coordinating harvests and pooling crops, co-op members can deliver the bulk shipments that wholesalers increasingly demand. Some, like Jai Malloy, have scaled up. Others, like Sam Edwards in Sonoma, have moved to the other end of the scale continuum with a “craft” strategy. Yet the reality is that many existing cannabis farmers lack the resources or expertise to carry off either of these strategies—or, at least, carry it off all on their own. For many of these growers, the solution has been a strategy that borrows from both large- and small-scale producers—the cannabis co-operative. A case in point is Emerald Grown, a forty-member co-operative located in the town of Laytonville, in the Emerald Triangle’s Mendocino County. Founded three years ago by farmers Amber and Casey O’Neill, the co-operative follows a strategy of adaptive mimicry: using collective action to achieve the scale efficiencies of larger operators. By sharing seeds, expertise, and other resources, for example, co-op members can significantly boost their individual yields.

Police Searches Plummet In States That Legalize Weed, But…

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By Andy Campbell for the Huffington Post. Marijuana is often used as a tool by police officers to search your car. In many cases, the mere odor of weed serves as probable cause to pull you over and rifle through your belongings. States that have decriminalized it are still grappling with the legality of using marijuana for warrantless searches. In the case of Philando Castile, who was shot to death by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop last year, we saw the devastating effects the smell of marijuana can have on an officer’s perception of motorists. Though marijuana is decriminalized to some degree in the state, St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez would later tell investigators that he thought he was in danger because he smelled weed. It may come as no surprise, then, that states that have legalized marijuana are seeing a dramatic decline in warrantless searches.

Jeff Sessions Eyes Crackdown On Medical Marijuana, But Federal Policy Remains Unclear

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By Mike Ludwig for Truthout – The Trump administration’s policy toward legal marijuana began to emerge from the fog this week, and it appears that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his underlings remain more interested in orchestrating law enforcement crackdowns than in the current scientific understanding of cannabis. Sessions wants greater freedom to prosecute medical marijuana businesses and patients in states where the drug is a legal medicine. Federal authorities allege that “dangerous drug traffickers” and international “criminal organizations” cultivate marijuana under state medical marijuana laws and sell it in states where the drug is still illegal, according to a May 1 letter from Sessions to members of Congress obtained this week by the Massroots.com and The Washington Post. Sessions’ assistant attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, told members of Congress on Tuesday that the Department of Justice would continue a policy on state-legal marijuana adopted in 2013 by the Obama administration, at least for the near future. That policy, as laid out in 2013 by the famous Cole memo, has allowed recreational and medical marijuana businesses to operate in states where legalization has taken hold, despite ongoing federal prohibition.

Study: Legal Pot Will Boost California Economy By $5 Billion

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By Andrew Buncombe for Independent – The economy of California – poised to create a market for legal marijuana – could see its economy boosted by as much as $5bn, according to a new study. The report by the University of California Agricultural Issues Centre, says that the legalisation of the drug will provide the state a further reason for tourists – or at least some tourists – to visit. Yet it also warns that around 30 per cent of people who use cannabis may remain in the illegal market, in order to avoid the financial impact of regulations that require marijuana to be tested, tracked and taxed at 15 per cent of its retail value. The Los Angeles Times said that state officials developing the regulations, hope they will be able to persuade the majority of cannabis users to go through the legal market. Lori Ajax, director of the state Bureau of Marijuana Control, which commissioned the report, told the newspaper: “It’s going to take some time. While it’s unlikely that everyone will come into the regulated market on Day One, we plan to continue working with stakeholders as we move forward to increase participation over time.”

New Study: Artificial Intelligence Will Alter Humankind In 10 Years

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By Lee Camp for Redacted Tonight. Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp has the latest on an impending crisis robots are causing. As jobs are rapidly becoming automated, what will it mean the society of workers made of flesh and blood and not controlled by a processor? Robots are climbing the ladder and will soon take over more mortal jobs. Though it may not be hard to imagine that cashiers will disappear, with self check out already around the corner, there are also white collar jobs at risk. With this imminent job loss, what on Earth can we do as a society to take on skyrocketing unemployment? Lee gets into why the growth of artificial intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world if we harness these changes the right way. Then to Europe.

DOJ’s Mysterious Marijuana Subcommittee

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By Steven Nelson for US News – Led by an outspoken legalization opponent, Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is reviewing federal marijuana policy, with significant changes possible soon. Almost nothing about the review process is publicly known and key players in the policy debate have not been contacted. The outcome of the review could devastate a multibillion-dollar industry and countermand the will of voters in eight states if the Obama administration’s permissive stance on non-medical sales is reversed. What is known: The review is being conducted by a subcommittee of a larger crime-reduction task force that will issue recommendations by July 27. The subcommittee was announced in April alongside other subcommittees reviewing charging and sentencing. The task force is co-chaired by Steve Cook, an assistant U.S. attorney in Tennessee who like Sessions advocates harsh criminal penalties and a traditional view of drug prohibition. The other co-chair is Robyn Thiemann, a longtime department official who works as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy. The marijuana subcommittee is led by Michael Murray, counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, U.S. News has learned.

The Astounding Size Of The Marijuana Economy

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By Phillip Smith for AlterNet. Marijuana is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is legal in nearly 30 (although often under quite restrictive regulatory schemes). Between the two, legal weed is generating total annual sales of between $4 billion and $4.5 billion. But legal marijuana sales are dwarfed by sales in the black market, which according to a recent report in Marijuana Business Daily, accounts for about 10 times the size of the legal market, or about $45 billion to $50 billion. While that’s still only about half the size of the legal beer and tobacco market, it is nothing to sneeze at, and it puts marijuana well ahead of some major American economic sectors. Here are 10 products or services already being surpassed by pot, with the first five being smaller than the legal market and the second five being smaller than the estimated overall market, including both licit and illicit markets.

Officials In Obama’s Drug Czar Office Wanted To Decriminalize Marijuana

ALESSANDRO GAROFALO/REUTERS
So close, President Obama, but so far.

By Jason Cherkis for The Huffington Post – WASHINGTON ― Officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Barack Obama wanted to take a more lenient stance on marijuana, with one former official telling HuffPost that staff pushed to ease federal prohibitions against the drug. But they never made that case directly to the public. “ONDCP was in favor of decriminalizing but not legalizing,” explained former deputy director A. Thomas McLellan, who worked in the White House office during Obama’s first term. Such a policy shift could have given a shot of momentum to efforts to relax marijuana laws across the country. But it never happened, in large part because officials were worried it would consume the office at a time when they needed to focus on the more pressing issue of the opioid epidemic. The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is more commonly known as the drug czar’s office, also determined that it couldn’t publicly support decriminalizing marijuana because of a provision in the legislation that authorized its existence. The bipartisan 1988 law that created the drug czar’s office declared that “the legalization of illegal drugs is an unconscionable surrender in the war on drugs.”

Public Banking Goes To Pot

JOHN VIZCAINO / REUTERS
A new study found that states with legalized medical marijuana in 2013 saved $165.2 million in national Medicare program and enrollee spending.

By Jeremy Lybarger for High Country News – Last October, a couple from Philadelphia traveled to Sebastopol, California, a quiet outpost some 50 miles north of San Francisco, to buy pot. They’d arranged the deal beforehand, but at some point during the hourlong transaction, the mood soured. Gunfire shattered the mild night. When it was over, two men were dead, a woman was critically injured, and 100 pounds of marijuana and $100,000 to $200,000 in cash were reportedly missing. The killers remain at large. Crime haunts the edges of the cannabis industry, as it does any underground economy. Sebastopol’s local newspaper reports that seven of the 26 people murdered in Sonoma County since 2013 died during marijuana deals. “People get robbed all the time,” says Andrew DeAngelo of Harborside, a dispensary in Oakland, California. Although 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form, it’s still federally classified as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD. And that means, as Last Week Tonight host John Oliver noted in an early April show, that “legal marijuana businesses have struggled to get bank accounts because at the federal level, they are still seen as criminal enterprises.”

It’s Time To Legalize Marijuana And Abolish The Drug Czar

An installer puts in a drip irrigation line at Harborside Farms, a large marijuana grower, in Salinas, California, March 24, 2017. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

By Mike Ludwig for Truthout – With its lengthy name and familiar acronym, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is one of the oldest pro-legalization lobbies on Capitol Hill, and the group is tired of waiting for a good drug czar to come around. So, NORML is asking the White House to abolish the position altogether, just as President Trump is reportedly preparing to appoint Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania to the office. Marijuana legalization proponents have plenty of problems with Marino becoming the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the position informally known as “drug czar,” but that’s not the only reason NORML wants the entire “anti-science” agency closed. The ONDCP has long been a center of command for the war on drugs, a bloody and chaotic conflict that is widely seen as a costly failure. Unfortunately for NORML and anyone who cares about personal freedom or public health, top Trump administration officials — most notably Jeff Sessions, Trump’s cannabis-loathing attorney general — do not appear to agree. Just this week, Department of Homeland Security Chief John Kelly said that minor marijuana charges would be used as a reason to deport immigrants…

Marijuana Giveaway Near US Capitol Somehow Goes Awry

by Andrew Propp.

By Julie Strupp for Washingtonian – Nine cannabis activists were arrested while giving out joints on Capitol Hill Thursday. Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of marijuana advocacy group DCMJ, says he believes his group was in compliance with District laws. Approximately 1,000 of the joints the group hoped to hand out to members of Congress, their staffs, and journalists were taken by US Capitol Police. DCMJ is the group behind Initiative 71, a 2015 law which legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in DC. Federal law still prohibits the possession or use of any amount. Seven of those arrested were members of DCMJ, including the other co-founder Adam Eidinger, and two were part of a local cannabis co-op who were helping out with the giveaway. DCMJ organized this first annual #JointSession event in honor of “4/20,” a holiday celebrated by cannabis enthusiasts, to push for reform in marijuana policy. Schiller says the activists did not anticipate the hassle. Each person had less than two ounces of marijuana on them and they were giving it away on a sliver of what they thought was non-federal land at the corner of 1st Street and Constitution Avenue, NE.

Sessions Says Obama Marijuana Memo Is ‘Valid’

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By Tom Angell for Mass Roots – S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is indicating that he might keep Obama-era marijuana enforcement guidelines in place, perhaps with some modifications. “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,” he said in a question-and-answer session with reporters on Wednesday following a speech in Richmond, Virginia. That memo, adopted in 2013, lays out guidelines for how states can avoid federal interference with their marijuana laws.