SF Council measures advocate gun control, legal pot

SANTA FE — Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and members of the City Council want to send a message to the state Legislature when it convenes in January for a 60-day session under a new governor: legalize weed and get a grip on gun reform.

Mayor Webber is introducing two resolutions that are scheduled to come before the City Council for approval on Nov. 14 that urges state lawmakers to take action on those issues during the 2019 legislative session.

Three of the eight city councilors — Joanne Vigil Coppler, Mike Harris and Peter Ives — have signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution that calls for the “legalization, decriminalization and/or regulation of cannabis and cannabis-related products for recreational use.”

The resolution notes that nine states and the District of Columbia have already legalized recreational cannabis, including Colorado, which has generated $817 million from taxes, licenses and fees from recreational sales since February 2014, much of it going to public schools.

The resolution also notes that the City Council in 2014 gave the city police the option issuing civil citations for possession of 1-ounce or less by ordinance, instead of filing criminal charges, and also declared pot possession “the lowest law enforcement priority.”

The mayor’s other resolution — co-sponsored by councilors Harris and Ives — urges the Legislature to adopt comprehensive “common sense” gun violence prevention laws, with cited examples including prohibiting domestic violence offenders under protective orders from purchasing a firearm, banning the sale of bumpstocks and holding parents or guardians of minors who gain access to firearms liable.

The resolution states that if the Legislature doesn’t have the “political will” to pass such laws, it should at least consider legislation to amend the state constitution to allow local governments to adopt their own gun measures in the interest of public safety.

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Marijuana is emerging among California’s vineyards, offering promise and concern

SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif. — It is the fall harvest here in this fertile stretch of oaks and hills that produces some of the country’s best wine. This season, though, workers also are plucking the sticky, fragrant flowers of a new crop.

Marijuana is emerging among the vineyards, not as a rival to the valley’s grapes but as a high-value commodity that could help reinvigorate a fading agricultural tradition along the state’s Central Coast. Brushed by ocean breeze, cannabis has taken root, offering promise and prompting the age-old question of whether there can be too much of a good thing.

Cannabis has been fully legal in California for less than a year, and no place is generating more interest in it than the stretch of coast from Monterey to here in Santa Barbara County, where farmers now hold more marijuana cultivation licenses than in any other county.

Read the rest of this story on DenverPost.com.


Marijuana is emerging among the vineyards, not as a rival to the valley’s grapes but as a high-value commodity that could help reinvigorate a fading agricultural tradition along the state’s Central Coast.
The post Marijuana is emerging among California’s vineyards, offering promise and concern appeared first on The Cannabist. […]

A cannabis Coke and a smile? Colorado companies hoping to tap infused beverage craze

When Coca-Cola publicly announces it is sizing up business opportunities in an industry, people take notice.

That was the case in mid September when Coke — the world’s largest beverage company with a market cap north of $211 billion — said it was keeping an eye on cannabis infused drinks, with a particular focus on beverages containing the non-psychoactive compound CBD. The announcement sent pot stocks soaring.

Coke may be on the sidelines for now, but at least one notable producer of bubbly beverages isn’t waiting around. Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Co., one of the largest beer makers in the world, launched a joint venture this summer with a Canadian cannabis company with the aim to create alcohol-free, infused drinks.

Read the rest of this story on DenverPost.com.


When Coca-Cola publicly announces it is sizing up business opportunities in a specific industry, people tend to take notice.That was the case with in mid September, when Coke — the world’s largest beverage company, said it was keeping an eye on cannabis infused drinks, with a particular focus on beverages containing the non-psychoactive compound CBD.
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Utah latest state to legalize medical pot, expand Medicaid

SALT LAKE CITY — Voters in conservative Utah have decided to join the growing number of states legalizing medical marijuana and expanding Medicaid to cover tens of thousands more low-income residents, two issues that had long stalled out with conservative state lawmakers.

Utah will be on the list of more than 30 states allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana after the plan maintained a vote lead in Friday tabulations. The measure will be revised, though, under a compromise that won the approval of influential Mormon church leaders.

The faith had opposed the ballot proposal over fears it could lead to broader use, but after months of fierce debate agreed to the deal. It will change the law by blocking marijuana edibles like cookies that might appeal to children and won’t allow people to grow their own marijuana if they live too far from a dispensary.

Read the rest of this story on DenverPost.com.


Voters in conservative Utah have decided to join the growing number of states legalizing medical marijuana and expanding Medicaid to cover tens of thousands more low-income residents, two issues that had long stalled out with conservative state lawmakers.
The post Utah latest state to legalize medical pot, expand Medicaid appeared first on The Cannabist. […]

New attorney general must protect states’ rights on marijuana, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner says

The next U.S. attorney general is going to have to respect the decision of Colorado and other states to legalize recreational and medical marijuana — at least if Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has his way.

“Whoever comes after him is going to face some pretty tough questions about where they stand on states’ rights and making sure they will stand up for states’ rights,” Gardner told The Denver Post on Thursday. “I am going to demand that the new attorney general side with the president because the president is right on states’ rights.”

Gardner blocked President Donald Trump’s nominees to the Justice Department for three months in early 2018 after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded something called the Cole Memorandum, an Obama-era policy that outlined a set of rules for states that legalized marijuana to follow if they wanted to avoid federal intervention.

Read the rest of this story on DenverPost.com.


The next U.S. attorney general is going to have to respect the decision of Colorado and other states to legalize recreational and medical marijuana — at least if Republican Sen.
The post New attorney general must protect states’ rights on marijuana, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner says appeared first on The Cannabist. […]

After long wait, 1st legal marijuana shops on East Coast to open

By Bob Salsberg, The Associated Press

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — With its youthful vibe and eclectic mix of culture, a small Massachusetts city seems a logical site for the nation’s first legal recreational marijuana sales east of Colorado.

An existing medical marijuana dispensary in Northampton — nestled in Massachusetts’ scenic Pioneer Valley — plans to open its doors within days to anyone 21 or older looking for products ranging from pre-rolled joints to cannabis-infused edibles, creams, lotions and cooking oils. A second store in the small town of Leicester could also open at or around the same time, while dozens of other retail applicants await final licensing approval from state regulators.

Read the rest of this story on DenverPost.com.


With its youthful vibe and eclectic mix of culture, a small Massachusetts city seems a logical site for the nation’s first legal recreational marijuana sales east of Colorado.
The post After long wait, 1st legal marijuana shops on East Coast to open appeared first on The Cannabist. […]

Marijuana Legalization Poised To Move Forward In New Mexico

New Mexico Flag

The outcome of today’s election puts New Mexico in position to advance marijuana legalization through the state legislature. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who won the governor’s race, has been an ardent supporter of the state’s medical cannabis program, from helping implement the program while she was Secretary of Health to supporting congressional legislation to allow veterans access to medical cannabis. She also supports the legalization of marijuana.

In addition to Grisham’s win, we anticipate several new candidates being elected to State Legislative House of Representatives who have publicly stated their support for legalization of marijuana. Additionally, like Grisham, these incoming Representatives also show great promise when it comes to passing reforms to reduce drug overdose deaths and implementing sensible criminal justice reform that includes treatment instead of incarceration for people struggling with problematic drug use.

Below is a statement from Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director at Drug Policy Alliance:

“Marijuana legalization has a good chance of becoming a reality in New Mexico in the coming years with our new governor and a more supportive legislature. Michelle Lujan Grisham will move drug policy reform forward in New Mexico – reform that has been stalled for the last eight years during the Martinez administration.

“Lujan Grisham understands that drug laws and policies should be grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. She has a solid plan to address our state’s decades-long opioid overdose crisis. And, she is supporting the legalization of marijuana for the right reasons – to better restrict minors’ access to marijuana, protect accessibility for those with medicinal needs, and reinvest in communities most harmed by prohibition.”

Source: Drug Policy Alliance press release on November 6, 2018

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State’s pot plant limitation for dispensaries ruled ‘arbitrary’

SANTA FE – A state District Court judge has ruled that the state Department of Health’s 450-plant limit on medical marijuana dispensaries is arbitrary and capricious and has no factual basis.

Judge David Thomson issued his 60-page ruling Thursday and is giving the DOH 120 days to come up with a new rule on plant limits. He wrote that the department has been “impeding the purpose” of New Mexico’s medical pot statute.

Bernalillo County resident Nicole Sena filed a lawsuit against the DOH in 2016 because she couldn’t find CBD oil, which requires several marijuana plants to produce, that she needed to treat her young daughter’s medical condition. She said she had to move to a “neighboring state” in order to get the oil.

Marijuana producer Duke Rodriguez, CEO of Ultra Health, later became a plaintiff in the suit. A bench trial concluded in August 2017.

Sena and Rodriguez were represented by Brian Egolf, a state representative and speaker of the House who also has a law firm in Santa Fe.

DOH spokesman Paul Rhien said in a text message Thursday: “The Department has received the judge’s decision and we are considering our next steps. Our focus will always be on ensuring that patients have safe access to medicine.”

Thomson ruled that the state Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which governs the medical marijuana program, gives the DOH discretion to develop a distribution system, come up with requirements for producers and set procedures for obtaining a license. But the judge found that the statute doesn’t allow to department to “limit the production of medicinal cannabis that has no articulated fact-based correlation between the 450 plant limit and what meets the adequate supply needs of patients.”

“In essence, DOH is using its regulatory authority in a manner and with an end toward impeding the purpose of the Act,” Thomson wrote.

“Further, its regulatory mandate of 450 plants is not based on fact or reliable data and is not rationally related to its regulatory authority. More importantly, it impedes the ability to assure medical patients have an adequate supply.”

The DOH moved the plant limit from 150 to 450 after a 2013 survey of medical marijuana patients, but Thomson ruled that the survey didn’t account for future growth of the program and noted that the department has not conducted another survey since. There were 9,760 patients in 2013, and as of September there are 58,782 patients in the program, according to DOH data.

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Marijuana In The Governor’s Mansion: Record Number Of Candidates Say Legalize It

As polls continue to show that a growing majority of voters support legalizing marijuana, more and more politicians are beginning to embrace the issue, and this year’s midterm elections provide the latest datapoint in the ongoing evolution of cannabis into a mainstream political issue.

At least 21 major party gubernatorial nominees on U.S. ballots this year support legalizing cannabis, a new Marijuana Moment analysis finds. That’s far more than have embraced marijuana law reform than in any previous election cycle.

Some of the candidates listed below support legalization more forcefully than others. While some have made cannabis reform a centerpiece of their campaigns, others seemed to embrace ending prohibition only reluctantly or when pressed on the issue.

Beyond those would-be governors who are calling for a complete end to marijuana prohibition, a large number of additional contenders support reforms like decriminalization or medical marijuana, and others say they are open to legalization at some point.

While the two sitting governors listed below who have actually signed marijuana legalization bills into law are Republicans, this review found that Democratic contenders are much more likely to support cannabis reform than are GOP candidates, perhaps a reflection of the fact that while a bare majority of Republican voters now support ending prohibition, registered Democrats have been more strongly in favor for a longer period of time, according to polls.

This analysis focuses on major party candidates who have made their positions on marijuana clear over the course of their primary and general election campaigns, and doesn’t include a comprehensive look at the records of every single contender in each of the 39 gubernatorial races in states and U.S. territories this year.

Gubernatorial Candidates Who Support Legalizing Marijuana

California – Gavin Newsom (D)

As the state’s lieutenant governor, Newsom became one of the first prominent mainstream Democrats to endorse legalization when he told the New York Times in 2012 that “these laws just don’t make sense anymore” and “it’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this.”

He later empaneled a blue ribbon commission on cannabis whose report informed the drafting of the state’s successful 2016 legalization ballot measure, for which Newsom actively campaigned.

He has since taken a forceful stance in response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rescission of Obama-era protections for state marijuana laws, signaling that he would vigorously fight any federal move to interfere with California’s legalization policies.


Colorado – Jared Polis (D)

As a congressman since 2009, Polis has consistently been one of the most active cannabis reform supporters on Capitol Hill, sponsoring or cosponsoring dozens of marijuana-related bills and amendments concerning issues like banking access, fair taxation, hemp and military veterans’ access to medical cannabis.

While he did not publicly campaign for the state’s marijuana legalization measure prior to its passage in 2012, he has since embraced it wholeheartedly.

During the course of his gubernatorial campaign, he has toured several marijuana and hemp businesses.


Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – Ralph Torres (R)

Torres, the incumbent governor, signed a marijuana legalization bill into law in September.

“Today, our people made history,” he said at the time. “We took a stand to legalize marijuana in the CNMI for recreational, medical, and commercial use.”


Connecticut – Ned Lamont (D)

A businessman and previous U.S. Senate candidate, Lamont says legalizing marijuana is “an idea whose time has come.”

He also said that cannabis is “not a gateway drug compared to opioids” and that he’d use tax revenue from legal sales to fund drug treatment programs.


Florida – Andrew Gillum (D)

The Tallahassee mayor said during his successful primary campaign that he was “proud to be the first candidate in this race to support legalizing marijuana.”

Gillum sent a blast to his email list proposing to fund teacher salary raises with legal marijuana tax revenue.

“We could raise anywhere from $900 million to $1 billion in new annual revenue — and that doesn’t include new economic activity from people no longer incarcerated for simple possession crimes, or low-level marijuana offenses,” he wrote in a separate blog post.

One of his campaign ads flashed the words “legalize marijuana” on screen along with other policy proposals.


Georgia – Stacey Abrams (D)

The former minority leader of the state House of Representatives confirmed in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session that she’s a “yes” on legalizing marijuana, adding that “this includes building a statewide network of mental health and substance abuse treatment centers.”

Abrams also backs decriminalizing marijuana possession.

And she wants to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis program.


Idaho – Paulette Jordan (D)

While Jordan, a former state legislator and tribal council member, has focused more on decriminalization and medical cannabis during her campaign, she does support full marijuana legalization.

During a Democratic primary debate, she said there’s “nothing wrong” with legalization

Addressing legalization in a Facebook Live interview with the Idaho Statesman, she said, “the numbers that have been very beneficial to other states when it comes down to resources for education.”


Illinois – J.B. Pritzker (D)

A billionaire venture capitalist, Pritzker made supporting marijuana legalization a centerpiece of his gubernatorial primary campaign and has since continued to focus on the issue amidst his general election battle with incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R).

“We can begin by immediately removing one area of racial injustice in our criminal justice system,” he said during his primary night victory speech. “Let’s legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.”

Earlier this year he held a press conference outside of a medical cannabis dispensary to push back on anti-marijuana signals coming from the Trump administration.

“I also support legalizing and taxing recreational use of marijuana, which is estimated to generate as much as $700 million a year for the state,” he wrote in a candidate questionnaire. “No more studies are needed to show it’s time for Illinois to safely move forward and legalize marijuana. As governor, I will modernize drug laws and move Illinois towards a criminal justice system that gives all Illinoisans a chance to reach their full potential.”

Pritzker has also highlighted racial disparities in cannabis enforcement.

“Criminalizing marijuana hasn’t made our communities safer, but has disproportionately impacted black and brown communities,” he said. “The criminalization of cannabis never has been and never will be enforced fairly, and it’s time to bring that to an end. To right past wrongs, we also have to commute sentences of people in prison who are there for marijuana offenses.”


Maine – Janet Mills (D)

Currently the state attorney general, Mills said that “properly implemented, marijuana legalization has the potential to create thousands of jobs, grow the Maine economy, and end an outdated war on drugs.”

In light of the fact that Maine voters already approved legal cannabis in 2016, she has joined officials from other states in “calling on Congress to allow banks and credit unions to serve state-licensed marijuana businesses without penalty, ending the cash-based shadow economy that still haunts states who have legalized marijuana,” she said.


Maryland – Ben Jealous (D)

The former NAACP president and CEO says comedian Dave Chappelle, a childhood friend, first convinced him to support ending marijuana prohibition.

If elected, Jealous plans to use legal cannabis tax revenue to fund universal pre-kindergarten.

“It’s a great win-win,” he said in an interview with Marijuana Moment. “And it’s rare in politics, but it’s also urgently needed. We know that we have to end mass incarceration–and yet go further. We have to really get back to opening up the gates of opportunity for all of our children. And by legalizing cannabis, we get to make progress on both fronts.”


Massachusetts – Jay Gonzalez (D)

The former state secretary of administration and finance says that the “people have spoken and we have an obligation as a state to implement the [legal marijuana] law as passed by the voters,” adding that it should be done “quickly” but in a way that keeps “public safety at the forefront.”

Calling federal interference with state marijuana policies “a problem,” he said that “our governor should be standing up vociferously and advocating against” any intervention with the commonwealth’s cannabis laws.

He also supports requiring insurance programs to cover medical cannabis.


Michigan – Gretchen Whitmer (D)

The former state lawmaker says she will vote “yes” on the marijuana legalization measure on Michigan’s November ballot.

Whitmer says that she also supported the state’s medical cannabis ballot measure in 2008 and that it can be used an an “exit drug” away from opioids.


Minnesota – Tim Walz (D)

The sitting congressman wants to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms.”

He even tweeted his support for legalization on April 20, the unofficial cannabis holiday.

A Walz proposal to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the benefits of medical cannabis for military veterans became the first-ever standalone marijuana bill to be approved by a congressional committee earlier this year.

He has also pushed back against potential federal intervention in state marijuana laws.


Nevada – Steve Sisolak (D)

The Clark County commissioner has pledged to continue implementing the state’s voter-approved legal marijuana law, with a special emphasis on steering tax revenues toward education.

“It’s done a lot for our economy, both in terms of jobs and in tax revenue,” he said in a podcast appearance.

“The reality is, this is the future,” he said in another interview. “Let’s not be ashamed of it.”

Sisolak has also spoken at a number of cannabis events and even appeared at the grand opening of a marijuana dispensary.


New Hampshire – Molly Kelly (D)

“It’s also time for New Hampshire to join other New England states in legalizing, regulating and generating revenue from marijuana,” the former state senator says on her campaign website.

During a debate with incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who signed marijuana decriminalization into law but opposes broader legalization, Kelly argued that cannabis is not a gateway drug.

“I do support legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana,” she said. “It is not a gateway to other drugs. In fact, I believe that legalizing and regulating marijuana will bring it out of the dark and away from drug dealers.”


New Mexico – Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)

The current congresswoman has spoken in support of legalization during debates and elsewhere on the campaign trial, arguing that cannabis is “not a gateway drug.”

Arguing during one debate that legalization would bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy,” Lujan Grisham said she would be “inclined to sign” a bill as long as it effectively regulates edibles, fosters workplace safety, limits underage consumption and protects the current medical cannabis program.

“The states that have gone to recreational marijuana have been very clear that it’s an economic boost for their states,” she said.

She has also focused on medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids.

In Congress, Lujan Grisham voted several times for amendments to shield state medical marijuana programs from federal interference, as well as a broader proposal to protect recreational laws.

And she proudly touted an endorsement from the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance.


New York – Andrew Cuomo (D)

The incumbent governor, who was calling marijuana a “gateway drug” as recently as last year, changed his mind about legalization in a big way over the course of 2018.

Facing a vigorous primary election challenge from the pro-legalization actor Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo revised his approach–whether as a result of political necessity or genuine personal evolution on the topic.

Early in the year, noting that neighboring states are moving to end prohibition, the governor directed the New York Health Department to undergo a study of legalization, the result of which was a report that concluded the “positive effects” of ending cannabis prohibition “outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

More recently, Cuomo’s administration held a series of listening sessions on marijuana throughout the state to receive feedback from the public. And more consequentially, the governor appointed a working group to draft cannabis legalization legislation for lawmakers to consider in 2019

It’s true that Cuomo hasn’t yet explicitly stated, “I support legalizing marijuana,” but his evolution on the issue is clear, and his moves as governor this year–in particular his directive for a panel to actually write a legalization bill to be voted in the next legislative session–have carved a path for the state to be among the next to end prohibition.


Ohio – Richard Cordray (D)

While the former state attorney general and head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been reluctant to embrace marijuana reform for most of the campaign, he did finally say he’d personally vote for a legalization measure when pressed during a debate.

“When it goes to the ballot, I will cast my vote yes to legalize it,” he said.

Cordray previously had spoken about improving implementation of the state’s medical cannabis law and said that he would implement the will of voters if they approved legalization on the ballot. But he also distanced himself from a failed 2015 measure that was opposed even by many legalization advocates who were concerned with its provisions granting control of cultivation to the same investors who paid to put it on the ballot.

“As Governor, Rich Cordray will fix the botched implementation of Ohio’s medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have access to the medicine they need in a safe and affordable manner,” a campaign spokesperson told Marijuana Moment in an interview earlier this year. “He also thinks that the last marijuana ballot referendum failed partly because it was a flawed proposal. He supports voters’ right to propose a new referendum and will follow the will of the voters if it comes to a vote.”

Cordray has also talked about medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids.


Oregon – Kate Brown (D)

The incumbent governor has pushed back against federal threats to interfere with the legalization law that her state’s voters approved in 2014, saying that it has created a “thriving economy.”

“We are implementing the will of the voters here in a way that is successful for the economy,” she said in a press conference earlier this year. “The priority of the policy is to keep our children safe and to make sure that we keep marijuana off the black markets. It’s been successful here. We want to continue that path.”

“This is a job creator for Oregon,” she added.


Vermont – Christine Hallquist (D)

The former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative wants to expand the state’s existing noncommercial legalization of marijuana to allow for regulated and taxed sales.

“We don’t know where our marijuana is coming from, what it’s been grown with, or what it’s been sprayed with,” she said during a debate with incumbent Gov. Phil Scott (R), who signed the limited legalization bill into law but is wary of adding commercial cannabis sales. “Worse yet, you could see situations like New York, where it’s cut with other things of addictive and dangerous properties.”

In an interview with Heady Vermont, Hallquist pledged to “work with the legislature to ensure that a tax and regulate system was passed into law in my first term.”

Hallquist said she wants to use legal cannabis tax revenue to pay for water quality programs.


Vermont – Phil Scott (R)

The incumbent governor isn’t exactly a marijuana policy reform enthusiast, but he did sign a bill into law earlier this year that allows Vermonters to legally grow, possess and use small amounts of cannabis.

For now, Scott opposes going further by adding legal sales, and seemed to only reluctantly sign the noncommercial legalization bill after previously vetoing an earlier version.

Still, he gets pro-legalization credit for being the first governor in the nation’s history to put his name on a bill to end cannabis prohibition; all other states that have legalized so far have done so via ballot measures that didn’t require gubernatorial action.


Other Candidates Who Don’t Support Full Legalization Still Back Some Cannabis Reforms

A number of other major-party nominees who aren’t ready to endorse legalization have said that they have an open mind on the issue or are already in support of simple marijuana decriminalization or allowing medical cannabis.

In Alabama, Democrat Walt Maddox is in favor of medical cannabis and wants to study the effects of marijuana legalization in other states. “There’s going to be a lot of data over the next years that’s going to be collected so that if and we can potentially move forward with this, we do so in a thoughtful, strategic way,” he said.

Maddox also backs decriminalizing marijuana.

Georgia Republican candidate Brian Kemp opposes legalization but is “open and supportive” of expanding the state’s limited medical cannabis program.

In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly supports medical cannabis.

Nebraska Democratic candidate Bob Krist said that legalizing medical cannabis is “is right on top of my list.”

Drew Edmondson, the Democratic candidate in Oklahoma, says he voted for the state’s successful medical cannabis ballot measure but that he doesn’t believe the state is ready for full legalization.

In Pennsylvania, incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) says the state isn’t quite ready to legalize, but he signed medical cannabis into law and supports decriminalizing marijuana possession.

In Rhode Island, incumbent Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Republican challenger Allan Fung say they are both open to legalization, even if they don’t currently endorse it. Fung said he would put the question on the ballot for voters to decide.

South Carolina Democratic contender James Smith supports legalizing medical cannabis and has sponsored legislation to do so as a state representative.

Karl Dean, the Democratic candidate in Tennessee, said he would sign medical marijuana into law.

In Texas, incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R) expressed support for some form of marijuana decriminalization during a recent debate with Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, who backs medical cannabis expansion as well as putting a referendum on full marijuana legalization before voters.

Wisconsin Democratic nominee Tony Evers says he’s “not opposed to” legalization. “I’d support it,” he said, “but I do believe there has to be a more thoughtful, rigorous conversation around it as a state. So I would love to have a statewide referendum on this.”

During a debate with incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R), who opposes cannabis reform, Evers noted the fact that nearly half the state’s residents will vote on nonbinding marijuana advisory questions this year and said he is “willing to take a look at that, the results of those referenda and possibly support legalization.” In the meantime, he supports decriminalization and his website says he “would support and sign medical marijuana legalization legislation.”

Wyoming Democratic candidate Mary Throne voted for marijuana decriminalization as a state lawmaker and also supports medical cannabis.


What Does It Mean? Marijuana Is Mainstream

It is a near certainty that America will have more pro-legalization governors when new state legislative sessions convene next year. That means that legislators will be more likely to invest time into drafting, hearing and voting on marijuana bills to send to governors’ desks.

While a growing number of Republican voters–and as a consequence, GOP politicians–are beginning to embrace cannabis reform, it is now clear that supporting full marijuana legalization is a mainstream consensus position in the Democratic Party. And that will have implications as the 2020 presidential race heats up in earnest immediately following the midterms.

In the meantime, several states will consider far-reaching cannabis ballot measures on Election Day, the political effects of which are likely to spill over into neighboring states and embolden once-skittish lawmakers to tackle marijuana legislation.

This story has been updated to reflect the pro-legalization position of Georgia Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams.

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Picuris Pueblo pot production uprooted

Copyright (C) 2018 Albuquerque Journal

PICURIS PUEBLO – Picuris Pueblo’s budding medical marijuana production operation went up in smoke when federal officials raided its small-grow operation late last year.

“They took the plants and threatened to prosecute us,” Craig Quanchello, governor of the state’s smallest pueblo, said while sitting at a table in his tribal office, a buffalo head peering down from the wall behind him. “They told us we were a federal agency.”

Thirty-six marijuana plants – what Quanchello called a “test run” – nearly ready for harvest were uprooted and destroyed by federal agents.

The governor said the plants were being grown in protected facilities, both indoors and outdoors, and included a mix of strains. Some plants contained higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical that gets people high, while others were cannabidiol (CBD)-dominant, non-intoxicating and known to have therapeutic effects, including use as a treatment for childhood epilepsy.

The raid resulted in no arrests.

This was no secret grow site hidden in the hills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Gov. Quanchello said the pueblo had been totally transparent with state and federal agencies about what they were doing and where they were doing it.

“We even told them if they ever want to raid us, here’s where you need to go,” he said of the previously unreported raid.

Contacted with questions about the raid, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque declined to comment.

“The matter about which you inquire was investigative in nature and, as a matter of policy, Justice Department agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, do not comment on investigative matters,” it said in a statement emailed to the Journal.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it had talked to tribal officials about marijuana on pueblo land and had warned them that what they were doing was illegal.

“Representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office have, at various times, discussed with leaders of New Mexico Tribes and Pueblos, including Picuris Pueblo, that marijuana cultivation remains illegal under federal law, and that this Office will not enter into any agreement to abstain from enforcing federal marijuana laws on tribal lands,” it said.

Quanchello’s office walls are also dotted with clippings of the work of Santo Domingo Pueblo cartoonist Ricardo Cate, whose often ironic “Without Reservation” comic strip frequently illustrates the contrasting perspectives of Native Americans and the dominant culture, which many times is represented by a Gen. George Custer-like caricature.

“It reminds me of Custer and having white people telling you that you can’t do this,” Lt. Gov. Wayne Yazza Jr. said, reflecting on the raid. “It’s just making things harder on us and it pisses you off at the same time, because this is our land.”

But it’s also land that the federal government holds title to, held “in trust” for the pueblo.

And while New Mexico is one of 31 states where medical cannabis is sanctioned, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“Everyone thinks that we’re sovereign and we can do whatever we want. That’s not the case,” said Yazza, noting that even the larger pueblos and Indian reservations across the country cannot operate their casinos without the blessing of the state and federal governments.

A small dot on the map, Picuris Pueblo is located in the picturesque mountains of northern New Mexico about 20 miles south of Taos. There are roughly 300 tribal members.

Effective for addictions?

Quanchello, who last week spoke in favor of changing laws regulating medical cannabis before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said there is widespread support for the use of medicinal cannabis on the pueblo. He said tribal leaders believe that it could be an effective way to treat alcohol and opioid addiction, problems that have not escaped the pueblo.

“We’ve seen the effects of alcohol and opioids first hand,” he said.

But New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher has declined to add opioid dependence to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. That’s despite the recommendation of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board and a supportive 2017 University of New Mexico study. “I cannot say with any degree of confidence that the use of cannabis for treatment of opioid dependence and its symptoms would be either safe or effective,” Gallagher said in a statement in September.

Quanchello said the Department of Health has refused to talk to Picuris officials about licensing them to grow medical cannabis, despite reports of a low supply.

“They won’t even come to the table. They say it’s illegal to do it on federal land,” he said.

Asked for comment, a DOH spokesman provided a statement to the Journal.

“The growth and harvesting of cannabis in Indian Country raises complex cross-jurisdictional issues, including issues concerning the application and enforcement of Federal controlled substances laws,” it said. “In any event, the licensure application process for the Medical Cannabis Program is currently closed, which means we are not accepting applications or licensing new producers at this time.”

‘The perfect candidate’

Gov. Quanchello is quick to credit predecessor Picuris officials for the pueblo’s efforts to start up a medical marijuana operation. “We put a lot of energy and a lot of thought into it,” he said. “If we do it right, it pushes out the black market.”

Quanchello said the pueblo was doing it right before it was raided. “We documented everything from seed to sell,” he said, though the pueblo never had an opportunity to sell any of it.

There is little economic development to be found at Picuris. The pueblo’s biggest business enterprise is its ownership of the Hotel Santa Fe in Santa Fe. It also has a smoke shop on the reservation. Construction of a travel center on N.M. 75, which will include a Subway restaurant, is also underway.

A pueblo-owned 1-megawatt solar array went into operation last December, but the governor says its not intended to be a money-maker. Instead, it serves to reduce electric bills for the 110 or so homes on the pueblo. Similarly, the pueblo also manages its own buffalo herd from which tribal members can procure meat at discounted prices.

The governor said that while the pueblo has hopes of growing medical marijuana, and selling it in and outside the pueblo, they aren’t doing it to make money.

“We started to grow it with the intent of lowering the cost of the medicine or therapy for those who need it,” he said. “The intent was to make it more affordable; that was the initial driver.”

The governor said the cost per gram of medical marijuana in New Mexico is roughly $10, compared to about $3 per gram in Colorado.

Quanchello said Picuris Pueblo is “the perfect candidate” for a legal pot-growing operation.

“We’re farmers by nature,” he said of the Picuris people. “We have the land, we have the water.”

Asked if the pueblo’s proximity to the hippie communes that grew out of the Taos-area counter-culture movement of the 1960s and their neighbors’ penchant for smoking pot had any influence on the tribe, Quanchello suggested that marijuana had a presence on the pueblo long before any hippies showed up.

Picuris Pueblo used to be a trading hub – “like a Walmart back in the day,” the governor said.

“Historically, they’ve found seeds here,” he said, adding that parrot feathers and seashells are other items found on the pueblo were brought by trade partners.

‘We had nothing to hide’

Gov. Quanchello says the tribe had been relying on guidelines set forth in two U.S. Department of Justice memorandums written during President Obama’s administration.

The August 2013 Cole Memorandum, named for its author, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, represented a significant shift in policy with regard to prosecution of federal marijuana laws. The memo said that given its limited resources, the Justice Department would not enforce federal marijuana prohibition so long as “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana” were in place.

The memo, sent to U.S. attorneys nationwide, laid out a set of eight new law enforcement priorities for prosecutors to follow. Among them were preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors and keeping money from the sale of pot sold on the black market from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels. Notably, the last of the listed priorities was preventing the possession and use of marijuana on federal land, which includes tribal lands. The memo also states that “nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence of any one of these factors.”

A year later, another DOJ memo, this one by Monty Wilkinson, director of the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, specifically addressed marijuana issues in Indian Country.

This memo came in response to requests from tribes to clarify the enforcement of the Controlled Substance Act on tribal lands. Wilkinson wrote that effective enforcement of marijuana laws in Indian Country requires consultation with tribal partners and flexibility to confront public safety issues.

“Each United States Attorney must assess all of the threats present in his or her district, including those in Indian Country, and focus enforcement efforts based on that district-specific assessment,” it says. This directive goes on to reiterate that the eight priorities outlined in the Cole Memo would guide enforcement efforts, “including in the event that sovereign Indian Nations seek to legalize the cultivation or use of marijuana in Indian Country.”

The memo says that when evaluating enforcement activities, each U.S. attorney should consult with the tribes on a government-to-government basis.

Gov. Quanchello said the tribe was open about what they were doing when it started growing pot.

“We were being transparent. We had nothing to hide,” he said.

It’s unclear who ordered the raid.

Former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico Damon Martinez stepped down in March 2017. His successor, John Anderson, was sworn in last February. In between, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo that rescinded the Cole Memo.

“That changed the game for everyone,” Quanchello said.

Not giving up

The raid on the pueblo’s grow operation wasn’t the end of it. The governor said New Mexico State Police stepped up saturation patrols.

The governor said Picuris had started a list of prospective medical marijuana patients on the pueblo.

“Guess what that list becomes now?” he asked. “A target list.”

But Quanchello said he didn’t want to talk about how tribal members had been treated. He said Picuris Pueblo is focused on what needs to be done to make a medical marijuana program happen.

“We want to change the law first. That’s what we need to work on,” he said.

There is growing support for marijuana in New Mexico and across the country. An Albuquerque Journal poll conducted by Research and Polling and released in September showed that 60 percent of likely proven voters surveyed said they would support a bill to legalize, regulate and tax sales to adults 21 and over, while 32 percent were opposed. That compares to a 2014 Journal poll that showed 50 percent support for legalization, with 44 percent opposed.

Department of Health statistics show that, as of Sept. 30, enrollment in its medical cannabis program was at 58,782 patients – up from 48,861 a year earlier – a 20 percent increase in patients in just one year.

Quanchello said he’s hopeful things might change after next week’s elections. The pueblo is endorsing Michelle Lujan Grisham for governor.

“She’s been open to sitting down at the table,” he said.

Quanchello said the pueblo’s goal is to obtain a license to grow medical cannabis.

Despite the raid, Picuris is not giving up.

“We’ll get it going again,” Quanchello said with confidence.

Please suggest arthed:

Pueblo pot production uprooted

and a deck:

Confusing laws covering federal land and marijuana force Picuris Pueblo to end fledgling venture

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Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham will have support to pass her political agenda

Tuesday was a big night for New Mexico Democrats.

Voters elected Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham as the state’s governor-elect.

For years, the state’s Legislature has been a Democrat and the governor has been Republican, making it difficult for Democrats to pass legislation.

Now, both are Democrat, giving the newly elected governor a lot of support to help pass her agenda once she takes over as governor in January.

“You know for the last eight years, for the most part, the Legislature has been Democratic, the governor’s been Republican, so oftentimes the Legislature didn’t even bother introducing certain legislation because they knew it might be vetoed by the Republican governor,” said KOAT political analyst Brian Sanderoff.

In the past, said legalizing marijuana will bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.”

Now, members in the marijuana industry are thrilled by the election results.

“Her views on cannabis use mirror our organizations,” said New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vincent Galbiati.

Galbiati believes Lujan Grisham’s win will help strengthen the industry.

“We really believe in the expansion and improvement in the medical side of cannabis, and

we also look at that as a stepping stone to responsible adult use,” said Galbiati.

That’s something they didn’t believe would be possible with Steve Pearce, the Republican candidate.

“Having adults have the choice of usage to us it seems a little odd. You can walk across the state line and have it perfectly legal, and you can come back to New Mexico and adults can have the choice to use,” Galbiati.

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Cannabis Reform Scores Big Wins In Midterms

VoteCannnabis

Marijuana reformers enjoyed numerous federal, state, and local victories last night. Here are the highlights.

STATE BALLOT INITIATIVES

Florida: Sixty-three percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which amends the state constitution to restore voting privileges to those with non-violent felony convictions – including tens of thousands of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses. Passage of the amendment is anticipated to reinstate voting rights to some 1.4 million Floridians.

Michigan: Voters by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent approved Proposal 1, legalizing the adult use, cultivation, and retail marketing of marijuana. Michigan is the first Midwest state to legalize adult marijuana use and sales, and it is the tenth state overall to do so. Under the measure’s provisions, adults will be able to legally begin possessing cannabis ten days following the certification of the 2018 election results. An estimated 25 percent of the US population now resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use and possession of cannabis is legal.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “Voters in Michigan sent a resounding rebuke to their state’s failed policy of prohibition and elected to follow a new, more sensible path of regulation and legalization. Instead of arresting thousands of citizens a year for possession of a plant, Michigan will now be able to prioritize law enforcement resources towards combating violent crime, honor personal freedom and civil liberties, end the racist application of weaponizing prohibition laws against communities of color, and collect tax revenue that was previously going to black market elements and put it towards important social programs such as education and infrastructure development.”

“For years, Michigan has been one of the leading states in the nation in total annual marijuana-related arrests,” added Altieri, “In 2016, police made over 22,000 marijuana-related arrests, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of over $94 million. That wasteful and harmful practice ends today.”

Missouri: Sixty-six percent of Missourians approved Amendment 2, which amends the constitution to permits physicians to recommend medical marijuana at their sole discretion, and provides licensed dispensary access to qualifying patients. The measure beat out two competing ballot initiatives, neither of which received more than 50 percent support from voters.

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “This is a patient-centered proposal that puts power in the hands of state-licensed physicians and their patients, not politicians or bureaucrats. Passage of Amendment 2 creates a robust statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis. Of the three proposals on the ballot, we believed that Amendment 2 was the clear choice for voters, and the voters agreed.”

Utah: Fifty-three percent of Utah voters approved Proposition 2, which facilitates legal medical cannabis access to qualified patients. In the coming months, state lawmakers are anticipated to hold a special legislative session with regard to implementing the new law. NORML is calling on state politicians to “respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law.” With yesterday’s passage of medical marijuana legalization in Missouri and Utah, 33 US states now recognize the therapeutic use of cannabis by statute.

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “It is our hope that Utah’s politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law.”

KEY FEDERAL RACES

There were some major changes in the US House of Representatives that bode well for the prospects of future, federal marijuana law reform. Perhaps most importantly, Congress’ chief marijuana prohibitionist – Texas Republican Pete Sessions – lost his re-election bid. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. His actions single-handedly killed a number of popular, bipartisan-led reforms — such as facilitating medical cannabis access to military veterans and amending federal banking laws so that licensed marijuana businesses are treated like other legal industries.

But Rep. Sessions is not the only prohibitionist leaving Congress. Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte – who as House Judiciary Chair failed to schedule any significant marijuana bills for hearings – has retired and will no longer be in Congress following the conclusion of this term

With Sessions and Goodlatte out of power, it is likely that members of the House will once again weigh in on and pass a number of important legislative reforms in 2019.

In addition to these notable departures, a number of NORML-endorsed Congressional candidates and incumbents won their races – including leading reformers like: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), David Joyce (R-OH), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). To see the outcomes for races involving all of NORML’s 2018 endorsed candidates, please visit here.

KEY STATE RACES

Marijuana was a key issue California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and New Mexico.

“In four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois — voters elected Governors who openly campaigned on a platform that included legalizing adult marijuana use. In two other states — California and Colorado — voters elected Governors who have a long-history of spearheading legalization reform efforts. And in Maine and in New Mexico, two of the nation’s most rabid marijuana prohibitionists, Paul LePage and Susana Martinez, have been replaced by Governors who are open to enacting common-sense cannabis reforms.”

For a complete run-down of gubernatorial races impacting marijuana policy, please visit the NORML blog here.

LOCAL BALLOT VICTORIES

Voters in Ohio and Wisconsin approved a series of binding and non-binding local marijuana reform initiatives on Election Day.

In Ohio, voters in five cities — including Dayton (population 140,000) — approved municipal ordinances seeking to either eliminate or significantly reduce local fines and penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses. Voters approved similar measures in the communities of Fremont (population 16,000), Norwood (population 20,000), Oregon (population 20,000), and Windham (population, 2,200). And in Wisconsin, voters in sixteen separate counties — including Milwaukee County — approved non-binding ballot questions expressing support for the legalization of cannabis for either medical purposes or for adult use.

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NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality marijuana that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Find out more at www.norml.org, see our factsheets at www.norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets, and our 2018 Candidate Packet at http://norml.org/pdf_files/NORML-Candidate-Packet-2018.pdf

Source: NORML press release

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