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Medical Marijuana News

Arizona Legal Marijuana Taxes

According to an analysis by the Arizona State Legislature, the state could generate an additional $48 million in revenue each year by legalizing and taxing marijuana. It shows that Arizona could enjoy a large boost in revenue for schools, health care and other services simply by taxing people who already use marijuana.

The report, which was produced by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee in September wasn’t made public, but the New Times was able to obtain a copy of it.

The report only takes into consideration the increase of potential taxes, but doesn’t account for the large amount of money that would be saved annually in Arizona by halting arrests, criminal prosecution and jailing of marijuana users. According to the New Times, “Phoenix police alone arrest about five people a day for possession of marijuana, with no other crimes alleged.”

The report was conducted in response to a bill proposed earlier this year that would have made marijuana legal for adults over 21 years old. It would have also made it legal to sell recreation marijuana in retail stores with a $50-per-ounce tax.

The bill died in April, but a similar measure may come back around in January. Regardless, Arizona voters are likely to see a legalization initiative on the ballot in 2016 coordinated by the Marijuana Policy Project.

Marijuana Plants Federal Government Report

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a comprehensive report last week examining a wholesale excise tax on the production and sale of cannabis-related products by the federal government.

The report was one of the most comprehensive policy and fiscal reviews to date of how marijuana can and should be regulated and taxed. The CRS considered enforcement, restrictions, labeling, measurement, discouraging youth use, choosing the base to tax (i.e., weight, potency and price), special tax rates, home production and medical cannabis.

In the CRS’ analysis, they predict that cannabis prices are likely to fall to as low $5-$18 ounce, from the $200 – $350 prices per ounce in dispensaries today. Their economic modeling was based on a $40 billion annual cannabis market in the United States and they estimated the federal government could generate as much as $7 billion in federal excise taxes.

NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre commenting on the new CRS paper:

“This CRS report on the prospects of the federal government taxing and regulating cannabis is another clear indication of the political saliency and fiscal appeal of ending cannabis prohibition at the state, and increasingly at the federal level (replacing the nearly eighty-year old failed federal policy with tax-n-regulate policies that are similar to alcohol and tobacco products).

With fours states and the District of Columbia since 2012 opting for legalizing cannabis, dozens of members of Congress from both major political parties—from states with legalization and those that pine for it—are getting serious about making sure the federal government does not lose out on hundreds of millions annually in tax revenue from the ever-growing cannabis industry in the United States.”

Marijuana Decriminalization Proposed in Virginia

Virginia state senator Sen. Adam Ebbin has introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under the proposal, the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would be decriminalized. Currently, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

“The criminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana ruins far more lives than it impacts in any kind of positive ways. [The bill] would decriminalize simple possession of an ounce or less, but not decriminalize it to the extent done recently in Colorado and Washington state,” stated Ebbin.

In addition, the bill also would reduce the criminal penalties for distribution and possession with the intent to distribute and would also limit the forfeiture of property from the sale or distribution of 1 pound or more.

“This is not just a conversation starter; we need to pass this bill. We’ve been talking to many of the members. … I think there is general support for the core of the bill, which is removing criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts — even from Republicans.” said Edward McCann, policy director for Virginia NORML.

D.C. Council Moves Ahead with Legalization

Arizona Marijuana and Cannabis News

David Grosso - Marijuana

Three weeks after voters in Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital, the City Council approved legislation that charges D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) with regulating and licensing marijuana producers and retailers.

According to the legislation, the ABRA would have 6 months to write the regulations. After the regulations are written, they would begin accepting license applications so that recreational cannabis stores could open by 2016.

Licensing marijuana business was not included in Initiative 71, which legalized recreational marijuana. Instead, the licensing is part of a bill introduced last year by Council Member David Grosso. Not only does the bill would allow the ABRA to licensing marijuana businesses, but it also eliminate penalties for possessing two ounces or less of marijuana, for growing up to six plants at home, and for transferring small amounts to other adults without payment.

Grosso’s bill would combine medical and recreational marijuana into one industry regulated by ABRA. However it would also define different tax rates for medically prescribed marijuana (6%) and marijuana purchased for recreational use (15%). By comparison, Colorado collects a 15 percent excise tax AND a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. Washington state imposes a 25 percent tax at each of three levels.

So far only the sections of the bill which deal with licensing, regulation, and taxation, have been approved by City Council’s committee. The other 10 sections must be approved by two other committees before the bill can be considered by the entire D.C. Council.

Marijuana Breath Test Under Development

Arizona Marijuana and Cannabis News

marijuana breathalyzerA team at Washington State University is developing a breath test to test for marijuana to help law enforcement determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Currently no device exists to test for marijuana impairment using a breath sample. Officers and prosecutors have to instead rely on blood tests to determine how much active THC is present in a driver’s blood. Initially, the marijuana breath test probably won’t be able to pinpoint the level of THC in the body; it will only tell officers that some active THC is present.

According to WSU chemistry Professor Herbert Hill, existing technologies that are used by airport security to detect drugs can be re-purposed to test breath for THC. The handheld device will use a technique called ion mobility spectrometry to detect THC in someone’s breath.

“We believe at least initially that it would lower the false positives that an officer would have,” Hill said. “They would have a higher level of confidence in making an arrest.”

Officers would still have to obtain follow-up-test results to use as evidence in court, just as they do after a positive preliminary breath test for alcohol impairment in a DUI arrest.

Hill said he and his research team plan to finish laboratory tests with a prototype marijuana breath test this year, then start testing human breath between January and June 2015.

Marijuana Patient Perscription On Thursday, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that doctors who certify patients to use medical marijuana can’t be criminally charged if they fail to review the patient’s records going back an entire year. The appeals court said that Arizona’s medical marijuana law gives doctors immunity for their referral decisions. However, the 2010 medical marijuana law does allow licensing boards to discipline doctors who improperly write recommendations.

“In enacting the (law), the voters explicitly barred prosecution of a physician for providing ‘written certifications’ or ‘for otherwise stating’ that certain patients may benefit from ‘the medical use of marijuana,’ ” presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris wrote in the opinion, which was joined by two other justices. According to Norris protecting patients and physicians from prosecution was a critical part of the law.

The decision affirms the recent dismissal of charges against Phoenix naturopath Dr. Robert Gear. Gear was charged with forgery and fraud after signing a medical marijuana certification for a police informant in 2012 based on his examination before actually reviewing a year’s worth of records for the patient.

Gear’s attorney Kimberly Kent agreed with the court decision stating, “because this is a health care law, this is a health care issue. And issue of compliance should be decided by people like the department of health or the regulatory agencies that oversee physicians and nurse practitioners who choose to participate in the program.”

Marijuana DoctorsStudy finds that seventy-six percent of doctors agree to the use of medical marijuana.

The study received responses from 1,446 doctors throughout 72 different countries and in 56 different states and provinces in North America.

The surveyed doctors were given a hypothetical case about a 68 year old woman with breast cancer that had metastasized (spread) to her chest cavity, lungs and spine. The doctors were asked if they would recommend marijuana tot he patient to help her with her medical symptoms.

More than seventy-five percent of the North American physicians approved the use of medical marijuana in the scenario. About seventy-eight percent of doctors outside North America supported medical marijuana use as well.

A New Mexico State Representative introduced the House Bill 465 last week. Bill 465 would reduce penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana.

The proposed bill reduces the penalty for possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana to a civil penalty while increasing fines and taking away the potential for jail time for any amount up to 8 ounces of marijuana.

New Mexico’s current laws state that possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor crime with fines and possible jail time. Whereas, over 1 ounce and up to 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor crime with large fines and possible jail time of up to one year.

Montana medical marijuana providers drop for first time

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The number of Montana medical marijuana users has topped 30,000 for the first time.

But the number of pot providers has dropped in the wake of federal raids on pot businesses and passage of legislation to clamp down on the industry.

State health officials say that at the end of April, there were 30,609 registered marijuana users in Montana. That’s 3 percent of the state’s population.

But the state lost 93 providers, called caregivers. There were 4,755 caregivers registered with state at the end of April, compared to 4,848 in March.

Several caregivers ceased operating after federal authorities raided 26 locations around the state in March. Others are trying to block a new law that would bar them from making a profit or providing for more than three patients.

LA police move to stem violence in Venice Beach

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Police Sgt. Marc Reina checks the weather on his iPhone every morning to forecast what lies ahead on the job at Venice Beach.

“Eighty-two and sunny — I know it’s going to be a long day,” he says.

Police are gearing up for especially long days even before summer’s unofficial Memorial Day start, as the sun and heat that draw throngs of tourists to one of the city’s top destinations also attracts an unsavory element and unusual violence — a shooting and stabbing in recent weeks.

Fearing crime could spiral, police have started cracking down on the unruliness that typifies the boardwalk — a 1.5-mile ribbon of asphalt that runs along the sand where the Ringling Brothers-meets-Woodstock ambiance can draw 150,000 people on a summer weekend.

Patrol reinforcements are being summoned from other divisions, more undercover operatives are being assigned to infiltrate crowds, and detectives are gathering intelligence via social media.

Dozens of people have been arrested for smoking pot and drinking in public, minor transgressions but ones that set the tone of public order on the beach.

“People come here from all over the world and we want them to come,” said police Capt. Jon Peters. “But clearly, in my mind, this has become a public safety issue. We’re taking an aggressive enforcement posture.”

Policing the funky neighborhood along a scenic stretch of sand and surf has always been a thorny task.

The beach and boardwalk have unique sets of labyrinthine regulations, plus an entrenched counterculture that takes pride in pushing the boundaries of law and order, including hurling beer bottles and heckling the cops.

Nevertheless, the LAPD division in the area has a waiting list of officers wanting to wear shorts on the job, zoom around the sand on ATVS and pound the pavement on Segway-type vehicles. It takes about six weeks for a new officer to learn the beach beat.

Along with Berettas and batons, police are armed with tape measures to check peddlers’ adherence to city property lines, and noise meters to detect decibel violators.

Since the economy soured, officers have gotten a lot busier dealing with everything from more thefts and transients to complaints about noise and vendor disputes. The increase has come even as overall crime in Venice has trended downward during the past two years, following a citywide pattern.

The summer mélange of hucksters hawking two-headed turtles; aging hippies living in garishly painted RVs; activists opposing circumcision; and camera-toting visitors has extended to year-round, driven by peddlers desperate for a buck and families seeking a cheap outing.

“People don’t have the money to go to other hotspots so they’re coming here,” said Reina, deftly weaving a police SUV through a sandy slalom course of bikini-clad sunbathers and sand-digging kids. “This is free entertainment.”

Police are particularly concerned about two outlaw groups that have made Venice a regular hangout.

Nomadic bands of youths who used to pass through Venice have taken up residence in alleyways, living off panhandling, theft and resale of medical marijuana from boardwalk dispensaries. South Los Angeles gang members are also increasingly coming on weekends, bringing their rivalries and weapons.

Residents have noticed a wave of burglaries, car break-ins, and auto and bicycle thefts in the past year.

“You see these punks working the alleys, trying to find open gates, open windows,” said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association, who lives blocks from the beach. “It’s not your traditional homeless.”

Police normally beef up Venice patrols in the summer, but last fall the 21 summer-duty positions were funded through the winter. Several gang members were arrested for home invasions, Peters said.

The boardwalk has also gotten more chaotic with new, first-come rules for vending spaces. The change has created an anything-goes flea market resulting in fisticuffs, threats and extortion among peddlers desperate for slots.

On top of that, vendors block emergency access zones, and unauthorized yard sales pop up that police can’t shut down because no signs are posted with the rules.

“We can’t do anything ’til the signs are up and they know it,” Reina said, pointing to the sellers in illegal spaces. “The vending is out of control.”

Things took a violent turn last month. A man was shot at the boardwalk basketball courts when rival gangs showed up at a “flash mob” gathering promoted by Twitter. The gunfire sparked pandemonium as people scattered for cover.

A week later, another man was stabbed at the beach drum circle, a regular jam session with hundreds of people rhythmically banging everything from bongos to buckets.

Some locals took the incidents as a harbinger of a rough summer to come, while others simply attributed it to a higher visitor turnout due to a spate of spring sunshine.

“They’re isolated incidents but getting regular. It was the first real hot weekend,” said Matt Dowd, a longtime boardwalk musician. “But the problems here stem back to a lack of attention to Venice’s issues.”

In the wake of the violence, officers have stepped up monitoring of Twitter, called in reinforcements one Sunday from the elite Metro division, and sought help from the major crimes task force.

On a recent Sunday after the stabbing, six undercover officers — up from the normal two or three — were sent to mingle in the drum circle, which can draw 600 to 800 cavorting people and has been a persistent headache through the years.

“The problem is we can’t see what’s going on in the crowd,” Reina said. “We even had a sexual assault in there years ago.”

Peters acknowledged arrests are only part of the solution.

He’s bugging the city to clean up overflowing trash cans in a bid to instill a sense of order and is working to get access to residents’ video surveillance cameras.

He’s even looking at piping calming classical music into the so-called “pagodas” — shaded sitting areas where people congregate — as well as installing better lighting and cameras with speakers that would allow warnings to be issued remotely.

Still, highly visible uniformed officers — about 20 comprise a typical weekend detail — are the most powerful deterrent, the officers noted. “If I had my way, I’d have 200 officers down here,” Reina said.