First Nevada Cannabis Dispensary Approved at Border of Idaho

The Nevada-Idaho border is about to get a little bit greener. 

Officials in Elko County, Nevada last week signed off on a proposal for a marijuana dispensary to open in Jackpot, Nevada, which straddles the border between the two western states.

Commissioners in Elko County unanimously approved the license for the business, according to the Associated Press, adding that the shop could open as early as Monday.

“We have no issues moving forward with the license,” Elko County Undersheriff Justin Ames said Wednesday at the commissioners’ meeting, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The Elko Daily reported that the business, known as Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, “passed background checks” and had “interviewed nearly 60 candidates to work in the dispensary, giving preference to Elko and Jackpot residents.”

As of a month ago, 35 people had been hired and paid, according to the Elko Daily.

The dispensary’s proximity to Idaho, where marijuana is still illegal, brought attention to the licensing approval process.

The Thrive in Jackpot will be “Nevada’s first along the Idaho line,” according to the Associated Press, and that its opening aroused anxiety among law enforcement officials in Idaho.

Across the border from Jackpot, commissioners in Twin Falls County, Idaho “had raised safety concerns about the dispensary on U.S. Highway 93, which connects Jackpot and the town of Twin Falls,” according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported that authorities in Idaho “expect to increase patrols in the area once the pot shop opens.”

In a statement, the Idaho State Police said that anyone “engaging in illegal behavior should be aware they risk attracting attention from law enforcement.”

Historically, conservative Idaho finds itself surrounded by neighbors that have embraced legalization: to the south, regulated marijuana sales in Nevada began in 2017; to the west, sales opened in Washington and Oregon in 2014 and 2015, respectively; and to the east, voters in Montana passed a ballot proposal last year to legalize recreational pot use for adults. 

The discrepancy in those laws has sparked some tension among officials in Idaho—and, in some cases, increased sales along the border. 

A report released last year from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis found that marijuana sales along the Oregon-Idaho border were about 420 percent the statewide average—a data point that was almost too on the nose.

“Obviously, recreational marijuana is not legal in Idaho, but even after throwing the data into a rough border tax model that accounts for incomes, number of retailers, tax rates and the like, there remains a huge border effect,” Oregon Office of Economic Analysis economist Josh Lehner wrote in the report. “Roughly speaking, about 75 percent of Oregon sales and more like 35 percent of Washington sales in counties along the Idaho border appear due to the border effect itself and not local socio-economic conditions.”

In what could offer a glimpse of things to come in Elko County, Nevada, Lehner noted that the jump in sales along the Oregon-Idaho border is likely linked to the presence of three stores along that state line.

“Initially the closest retailers to Idaho were located in Baker County, [Oregon], however that changed last summer,” Lehner explained. “There are now three retailers in Ontario, [Oregon] (Malheur County) which is right at the border. These new retailers are 30-60 minutes closer each way to any potential customers traveling into Oregon along I-84 than the retailers in Baker County. 

“As one might expect, as these new stores in Malheur County came online, sales plunged in Baker County by around 80 percent. This is a knock-on impact of the border effect. Proximity or distance traveled matters as do product availability, prices, and taxes.”

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Seattle City Council Passes Measure to Decriminalize Psychedelics

The Seattle City Council voted in favor of a resolution last week to support the decriminalization of magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics. With the resolution, city leaders called on Seattle police to make arresting and prosecuting people for use or possession of naturally occurring entheogenic substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca and other psychedelics “among Seattle’s lowest law enforcement priorities.”  

“It is a long overdue conversation to decriminalize these non-addictive natural substances,” council member Andrew Lewis said at the city council’s meeting on October 4. “Our law enforcement officials certainly have more important things to do than arrest people for possession of entheogens, and this resolution affirms that.”

Under the resolution, which is non-binding and serves only as a recommendation, the city council requests that the Seattle Police Department “formally codify and adopt policies that protect” those who cultivate psychedelics “for use in religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices and those who share entheogens with others, without financial or other consideration, for their mutual use in such practices.”

Under current SPD policy, officers do not detain or arrest individuals solely for possession of controlled substances. Those who cultivate or sell entheogenic or psychedelic substances, however, are subject to arrest and prosecution.

Council Notes Spiritual Uses of Psychedelics

At a virtual meeting of the city council, members noted that psychedelic compounds are often used for religious or spiritual purposes. The resolution does not cover synthetic psychedelic drugs such as LSD or ketamine, and excludes the entheogenic cactus peyote, which is embroiled in controversy because of its limited native habitat and significance as a sacramental plant for members of the Native American Church.

“These nonaddictive natural substances have real potential in clinical and therapeutic settings to make a really significant difference in people’s lives,” said Lewis. “This resolution really sets the stage as the first significant action in the state of Washington to move this policy forward.”

Lewis also told reporters that there is “a huge demonstrated potential for these substances to provide cutting-edge treatments for substance abuse, recovery from brain injuries and other issues. I want to make sure we’re following the science in our policies around regulating these substances.”

The strategy for Seattle’s resolution to decriminalize psychedelics is similar to the approach that led to cannabis reform in Seattle and eventually statewide. In 2003, the city’s voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 75, an ordinance which made the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority for Seattle police.

In 2012, Washington became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana with the passage of Initiative 502, which was passed with the approval of more than 55% of the state’s voters. Washington voters had previously decriminalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 1998 with the passage of Initiative 692, which garnered 59% of the vote.

Council Chooses Psychedelics Decriminalization Resolution Over Ordinance

The city council approved the resolution supporting the decriminalization of psychedelics by a unanimous vote at last week’s meeting, but not before debating other potential avenues to achieve the same goal. Council member Kshama Sawant noted that the non-binding resolution carries less weight than a proposed psychedelics decriminalization city ordinance that was drafted three months ago.

“To decriminalize psychedelics in fact rather than just in rhetoric would require an ordinance,” Sawant said. “It is this city council not the police department that has the authority to pass such an ordinance,” adding that “I am a little confused by this resolution because it is a resolution and not an ordinance, and why this resolution is being passed when there is an ordinance from my office, and it has been available for months.”

“I fail to see what the plausible reasons are for councilmembers who claim to support this issue to let an ordinance which takes concrete action sit in the city’s computers unintroduced, and instead push a resolution which only has the power to make requests,” said Sawant.

Council member Lisa Herbold, the chair of the public safety committee, noted that state lawmakers would likely engage in a “robust discussion about enforcement around possession of drugs” during the next legislative session. In February, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state’s felony drug law was unconstitutional, effectively decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs. In April, however, lawmakers passed new legislation to make low-level drug possession a misdemeanor until at least 2023.

Tatiana Quintana, co-director of Decrim Nature Seattle, a group that has been working to decriminalize psychedelics in the city for more than a year, said that an ordinance is the ultimate goal.

“In terms of strategy, [Lewis] was very supportive of an ordinance, but it kind of played out that a resolution would be a really great way to build support for an ordinance,” Quintana said. “I actually do think that the slower process of a resolution building not only awareness but support for a future ordinance is pretty smart. It’s a pretty smart way to go about things.”

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House Committee Approves the MORE Act to Legalize Cannabis

Members of a House of Representatives legislative committee voted on Thursday to advance a bill that would legalize marijuana at the federal level and allow states to set their own cannabis policies. The legislation, known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 26 to 15 following several attempts to amend the bill.

Under the MORE Act, cannabis would be removed from the list of drugs regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, criminal penalties for federal cannabis offenses would be eliminated, and past federal cannabis convictions would be expunged. The bill, H.R. 3617, also establishes a tax on retail cannabis sales, with revenue raised by the tax invested in communities that were harmed under federal marijuana prohibition policies.

In his opening remarks on Thursday, Democratic committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York said that the “long overdue and historic legislation would reverse failed federal policies criminalizing marijuana.”

“It would also take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly among communities of color,” he continued. “I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only made it worse, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.”

The MORE Act Includes Social Equity Provisions

To address the harms caused by marijuana prohibition, an Opportunity Trust Fund created by the MORE Act would provide job training, re-entry services for formerly incarcerated individuals, and health education programs for communities impacted by the War on Drugs. The bill also establishes an Office of Cannabis Justice to implement the social equity provisions of the bill, encourage cannabis research, and ensure that federal benefits and services are not denied cannabis users. The Small Business Association would be responsible for creating a Cannabis Restorative Opportunity Program to develop cannabis licensing programs that limit barriers to participation in the industry.

After Thursday’s vote, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) political director Justin Strekal called on Democratic leaders to swiftly bring the MORE Act up for a vote by the full House of Representatives.

“Never before has public support from every corner of the political spectrum been so aligned as to demand that Congress take action to end the shameful experiment with marijuana prohibition,” Strekal said in a press release from the reform group. “The continued criminalization of marijuana by the federal government is an affront to our professed ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. By advancing the MORE Act, the House will demonstrate that the majority of our political leaders are ready to correct this injustice and enact cannabis policy reform that undoes the harms that have been inflicted upon millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”

Bill Approved By Bipartisan Vote

The vote to advance the MORE Act in the Judiciary Committee was 26 to 15, receiving support from 2 Republicans and all 24 Democrats on the panel while the remaining 15 Republicans voted against the legislation. The vote followed several attempts to amend the proposal, including one from Republican Rep. Thomas Massie that would have removed taxation and social equity grants from the cannabis legalization proposal. Another failed amendment would have denied justice reform grants to those convicted of rioting, looting, or destruction of property.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a cosponsor of the legislation, was one of the two Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to vote for the bill, although he also expressed reservations over the tax provisions in the measure.

“I am a proud co-sponsor of the MORE Act because the federal government has screwed up marijuana policy in this country for a generation,” Gaetz said. “We lied to people about the effects of marijuana. And then we used marijuana as a cudgel to incarcerate just wide swathes of communities, and particularly in African American communities.”

Gaetz, however, said that he believes the MORE Act has little chance of passage in the U.S. Senate and suggested lawmakers draft more modest cannabis legislation. A separate measure that would allow cannabis businesses in states with legal marijuana to access financial services, the SAFE Banking Act, was approved by the full House of Representatives on Sept. 23 as part of defense spending authorization bill.

But some Democratic senators including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden have expressed reservations over passing a bill to protect the financial interests of cannabis businesses before broader reform such as the MORE Act is signed into law. In a podcast released on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Drug Policy Alliance founder that he had reached an agreement with his colleagues to not let banking legislation advance before wider cannabis legalization.

“Senators Booker, Wyden and I have come to agreement that if we let [the banking bill] out, it’ll make it much harder and take longer to pass comprehensive reform,” Schumer said. “We certainly want the provisions, similar to the SAFE Banking Act, in our bill. But to get more moderate people—to get some Republicans, to get the financial services industry—behind a comprehensive bill is the way to go. It’s the right thing to do.”

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House Committee Approves the MORE Act to Legalize Cannabis

Members of a House of Representatives legislative committee voted on Thursday to advance a bill that would legalize marijuana at the federal level and allow states to set their own cannabis policies. The legislation, known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 26 to 15 following several attempts to amend the bill.

Under the MORE Act, cannabis would be removed from the list of drugs regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, criminal penalties for federal cannabis offenses would be eliminated, and past federal cannabis convictions would be expunged. The bill, H.R. 3617, also establishes a tax on retail cannabis sales, with revenue raised by the tax invested in communities that were harmed under federal marijuana prohibition policies.

In his opening remarks on Thursday, Democratic committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York said that the “long overdue and historic legislation would reverse failed federal policies criminalizing marijuana.”

“It would also take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly among communities of color,” he continued. “I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only made it worse, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.”

The MORE Act Includes Social Equity Provisions

To address the harms caused by marijuana prohibition, an Opportunity Trust Fund created by the MORE Act would provide job training, re-entry services for formerly incarcerated individuals, and health education programs for communities impacted by the War on Drugs. The bill also establishes an Office of Cannabis Justice to implement the social equity provisions of the bill, encourage cannabis research, and ensure that federal benefits and services are not denied cannabis users. The Small Business Association would be responsible for creating a Cannabis Restorative Opportunity Program to develop cannabis licensing programs that limit barriers to participation in the industry.

After Thursday’s vote, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) political director Justin Strekal called on Democratic leaders to swiftly bring the MORE Act up for a vote by the full House of Representatives.

“Never before has public support from every corner of the political spectrum been so aligned as to demand that Congress take action to end the shameful experiment with marijuana prohibition,” Strekal said in a press release from the reform group. “The continued criminalization of marijuana by the federal government is an affront to our professed ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. By advancing the MORE Act, the House will demonstrate that the majority of our political leaders are ready to correct this injustice and enact cannabis policy reform that undoes the harms that have been inflicted upon millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”

Bill Approved By Bipartisan Vote

The vote to advance the MORE Act in the Judiciary Committee was 26 to 15, receiving support from 2 Republicans and all 24 Democrats on the panel while the remaining 15 Republicans voted against the legislation. The vote followed several attempts to amend the proposal, including one from Republican Rep. Thomas Massie that would have removed taxation and social equity grants from the cannabis legalization proposal. Another failed amendment would have denied justice reform grants to those convicted of rioting, looting, or destruction of property.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a cosponsor of the legislation, was one of the two Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to vote for the bill, although he also expressed reservations over the tax provisions in the measure.

“I am a proud co-sponsor of the MORE Act because the federal government has screwed up marijuana policy in this country for a generation,” Gaetz said. “We lied to people about the effects of marijuana. And then we used marijuana as a cudgel to incarcerate just wide swathes of communities, and particularly in African American communities.”

Gaetz, however, said that he believes the MORE Act has little chance of passage in the U.S. Senate and suggested lawmakers draft more modest cannabis legislation. A separate measure that would allow cannabis businesses in states with legal marijuana to access financial services, the SAFE Banking Act, was approved by the full House of Representatives on Sept. 23 as part of defense spending authorization bill.

But some Democratic senators including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden have expressed reservations over passing a bill to protect the financial interests of cannabis businesses before broader reform such as the MORE Act is signed into law. In a podcast released on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Drug Policy Alliance founder that he had reached an agreement with his colleagues to not let banking legislation advance before wider cannabis legalization.

“Senators Booker, Wyden and I have come to agreement that if we let [the banking bill] out, it’ll make it much harder and take longer to pass comprehensive reform,” Schumer said. “We certainly want the provisions, similar to the SAFE Banking Act, in our bill. But to get more moderate people—to get some Republicans, to get the financial services industry—behind a comprehensive bill is the way to go. It’s the right thing to do.”

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LA County To Dismiss Nearly 60,000 Past Cannabis Convictions

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced the dismissal of almost 60,000 past cannabis convictions. The expungements, announced Monday, continue the work of the district attorney’s office to clear past convictions for cannabis offenses as authorized by Proposition 64, the landmark recreational marijuana legalization initiative approved by California voters in 2016.

Gascón said that expunging past cannabis convictions can free those living with the burden of a criminal record and the difficulties they face as they try to negotiate everyday life.

“Dismissing these convictions means the possibility of a better future to thousands of disenfranchised people who are receiving this long-needed relief,” Gascón said. “It clears the path for them to find jobs, housing, and other services that previously were denied to them because of unjust cannabis laws.”

Provisions of Proposition 64 allowed for the expungement of past convictions for activities that were no longer illegal with the passage of the initiative. Under a state law passed in 2018, prosecutors in California were required to review past marijuana convictions and decide if the dismissal of any cases should be challenged.

While serving as district attorney of San Francisco, Gascón moved for the dismissal of approximately 9,000 past marijuana convictions that had been adjudicated prior to the passage of Proposition 64. That work was done through a partnership with the tech nonprofit Code for America, which developed an algorithm to analyze court records for cases eligible for expungement under the legalization initiative.

Last year, the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office, under then-District Attorney Jackie Lacey, moved to expunge about 66,000 past convictions for marijuana offenses, which were also identified using the Code for America algorithm. However, that list of convictions was created using data solely from the California Department of Justice. When Gascón’s office used the technology to analyze county court records as well, prosecutors were able to identify the additional 60,000 cases eligible for expungement announced this week.

Reform Advocates Hail Expungements

Lynne Lyman, former director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the expungements would help address the profound negative impact of cannabis prohibition, which has been disproportionately borne by communities of color.

“This is the unfinished work of Proposition 64,” Lyman said. “We created the opportunity for old cannabis convictions to be cleared, but it was up to local district attorneys to actually make it happen. Proposition 64 was always about more than legal weed, it was an intentional effort to repair the past harms of the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition, which disproportionately targeted people of color. I applaud District Attorney Gascón for taking this action to help nearly 60,000 Angelenos have their records fully sealed.”

Jean Guccione, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, told reporters that approximately 20,000 of the convictions to be expunged were for felony possession or cultivation of marijuana. The remaining expungements will be issued for misdemeanor convictions filed in jurisdictions that do not have their own city attorney’s office.

In addition to dismissing the 60,000 convictions, Gascón said that county prosecutors will coordinate with the offices of Public Defender Ricardo García and Alternate Public Defender Erika Anzoategui to seek a blanket court order to seal the records of the dismissed cases, noting that “Over 100,000 Angelenos have been impacted by this war on marijuana after the voters told us they overwhelmingly wanted to stop this. … We want to basically erase the harm.”

Felicia Carbajal, executive director and community leader of The Social Impact Center, said that her organization notified the district attorney’s office of the shortcomings of relying only on California Department of Justice conviction records, leading to the analysis of county data and the identification of the additional 60,000 dismissals announced this week.

“I have made it my life mission to help and support people who have been impacted by the ‘War on Drugs,’” Carbajal said. “Giving people with cannabis convictions a new lease on life by expunging the records is something I have worked on for years and I am grateful that we can now make it happen.”

Carbajal said that it can be frustrating to see the legal cannabis industry make millions of dollars while those convicted of similar activities before the passage of Proposition 64 still suffer the consequences.

“My goal with all of this was really to try to put myself out of work,” Carbajal told the Los Angeles Times. “We do expungement work once a month, I’m looking around across the city and how long this is taking and how much money we continue to see raked in by the cannabis industry, and it still doesn’t sit well with me until those records are actually expunged.”

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Criminal Element Seen in Illicit Cannabis Grows Amid Oregon Crackdown

Local authorities across Oregon’s southern counties have reported a proliferation of unlicensed cannabis grow operations this year – with much sensationalism about involvement by criminal cartels. But the death of a man dropped off at a Chevron station in Cave Junction in early August brought the claims into grim focus. 

Human Trafficking in Josephine County?

This bleak discovery prompted the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office to investigate a massive outlaw grow in the Illinois Valley that they said showed evidence of human trafficking and involuntary servitude.

Sheriff Dave Daniel told local KDRV that a man was dropped off at the gas station, “very near death,” and that he expired on his way to a local hospital. The cause of death had not yet been determined.

In the resultant Aug. 17 pre-dawn raid, troops from more than a dozen state and federal agencies, including Homeland Security and the FBI, backed up the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team. The target was the Q-Bar-X Ranch near the town of Kerby, where agents found some 200,000 marijuana plants in more than 400 “hoop-houses” spread across the 1,300-acre property. Some 6,000 pounds of processed cannabis and $140,000 in cash were also reported as confiscated. 

Sheriff Daniel said that about 130 workers were detained for “questioning,” at the properties, and stressed the squalid working and living conditions at the site. “At this point the workers are being treated as victims,” he told KDRV.

The man whose mysterious death supposedly sparked the raid did not actually work at Q-Bar-X Ranch, authorities admitted. He is believed to have worked at a farm in Cave Junction, Jefferson Public Radio reports. But within two days of his death, the Cave Junction farm had been harvested, and the workers apparently moved to the ranch in Kerby. 

Sheriff Daniel said suspicions of human trafficking followed multiple 911 hang-up calls that came from the property, as well as a source who is remaining anonymous for security reasons. Daniel said that he sees the modus operandi of a criminal cartel at work here.

“We’ve heard of the threat of harm to your family if you don’t go with us,” Daniel told Jefferson Public Radio. “And then they are transported up to the location. From what we are understanding, these workers are not paid until the end of the year when the shipment goes out and the money is brought in. There’s not like a weekly payroll going on here.”

‘Narco-Slavery’ in Jackson County?

Similar claims are now raised by authorities in Jackson County, bordering Josephine on the west—both in the Klamath Mountains along the California border. 

In late August, Jackson County Commissioners sent a letter to Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown demanding emergency resources to battle “narco slavery” in the area, according to local KOBI-TV. Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer said recent raids by law enforcement revealed appalling living conditions for workers at illicit cannabis cultivation sites. He added that most of the workers appear to be victims of human trafficking.

“We’re asking the state to help us with this issue, which is a state-regulated industry,” Dyer said. “Help with law enforcement officials, we’re looking for help with code enforcement, help with the water master.” The Jackson County Watermaster’s Office coordinates with the Oregon Water Resources Department to manage the local watershed, that of the Rogue River. 

A similar letter to Gov. Brown by state lawmakers from the area made accusations of “severe aggravation of the drought through massive and systematic water theft, long-term damage to agricultural lands from various polluting practices, and the financial ruin of licensed growers whose compliance obligations make competition impossible… All this is taking place across the Rogue Valley with essential impunity.”

An account in the Southern Oregon Mail Tribune described conditions reported by police at recently raided grow sites: “Workers are sleeping in tents or on shipping container floors, sometimes with nothing but pieces of cardboard for mattresses. They lack running water for drinking, showering, cleaning their clothes or using the toilet. They’re exposed to pesticides, store their personal belongings in trash bags and live near dozens of fire-prone outlets strung up on plywood, according to photos from drug busts in the Rogue Valley this summer.” 

Mexican Cartels in Deschutes County? 

In early September, authorities made direct claims of Mexican cartel involvement in an illicit cannabis grow in Deschutes County. This is north and inland from the Klamath, on the east side of the Cascade Range.

A county drug enforcement team raided a 30-acre grow operation in the town of Alfalfa, seizing 9,227 plants and 2,800 pounds of processed bud. Authorities called it the biggest drug bust in the county’s history. Two pistols and an AR-15 rifle were also confiscated. Officers detained and released about 21 people, who they said were mostly Mexicans illegally trafficked into the United States to work in the illicit cannabis trade. 

“We did not arrest any of the migrant workers,” Sgt. Kemp Vander Kamp of the Sheriff’s Office told The Oregonian. “Most of them were there to pay off debt for being smuggled into the country.”

The workers were reportedly found living in wooden shacks and dome tents with limited clean water sources.  “We didn’t know we would be walking into a humanitarian aid situation,” Vander Kamp said. 

Federal Prohibition Part of the Problem?

Oregon is among the states where a big illicit sector persists despite cannabis legalization, which was approved by Beaver State voters in 2014. While conservatives point to this as a failure of legalization, Oregon’s cannabis advocates point out that the legal sector is still reined in by federal prohibition: illicit operations often produce for out-of-state markets, while licit crops are prohibited from crossing state lines—resulting in a glutted adult-use market. 

Advocates have been pressing for a legal interstate market to relieve the economic pressure on the licensed industry and make it more competitive with what appears to be an increasingly sleazy and oppressive outlaw sector.

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Legal: La Impactante Serie Web Sobre El Primer País En Legalizar El Cannabis, Uruguay

Más artículos por El Planteo en High Times en Español.

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Hace unos pocos días, el mundo conoció Legal, una alucinante serie documental enfocada en la industria del cannabis legal en Uruguay.

La temporada 1 de Legal consta de un total de 7 episodios que se estrenarán todos los viernes en el canal de YouTube de El Planteo. Cada uno de ellos retratará a los más importantes referentes de la escena cannábica uruguaya. Así, recorreremos junto a ellxs las distintas etapas de su vida, los rincones que los marcaron y su relación con la planta.

¿Qué está bien y qué está mal?

En Legal, serie documental conducida por Facu Santo Remedio en exclusiva para El Planteo, medio de comunicación enfocado en temáticas verdes y jóvenes como el cannabis, el cáñamo y los psicodélicos, se develan 7 retratos de algunos de los más importantes referentes de la escena cannábica uruguaya. Aquí, se recorren las distintas etapas de su vida, los rincones que los marcaron y su relación con la planta.

Capítulo I: Tincho Tinchín

En el primer capítulo conocemos a Tincho Tinchín, oriundo de Montevideo, criado en Canelones y radicado en Argentina hasta sus 30 años. Allí tuvo su primer contacto con la marihuana a través del famoso “prensado”. Más adelante, Tinchín volvió a su República Oriental para poder cumplir su sueño de formar su primer club cannábico 100% orgánico.

Contenido relacionado: Reality Shows, Late Nights y Docus de Cultivo: Conocé a Facu Santo Remedio, el Influencer Cannábico Uruguayo

Otro personaje singular que aparece en este episodio es Miguelito, el ayudante de Tincho, quien se dedica a juntar el pasto y las hojas, ver las plantas, ayudarlo a regar y a lo que sea que necesite. Curiosamente, Miguel probó la marihuana junto a Tincho, hace tan sólo medio año. “Un viejo de 72 años que nunca lo había probado”, relata. Ahora que fuma, Tincho le prepara los porros a Miguel como a él le gusta: suavecito.

El cultivador cuenta su historia: su primera planta, su primer indoor (“ahí se me prendió la curiosidad de saber un poco más a fondo”), quiénes fueron sus maestros y socios a lo largo de su aprendizaje y proyectos, su reubicación en Uruguay y la participación de su familia.

Asimismo, Tinchín nos muestra cómo realiza el cuidado diario de sus plantas y nos explica el motivo detrás de cada paso. También se trata -con hermosas visuales- el tema de las extracciones, que el cultivador considera su “rama” cannábica. Genéticas, gustos y preferencias también son discutidos ampliamente. El show también retrata, deliciosamente, el armado de un blunt barnizado con rosin y “empanado” en hash. Una bomba.

Por último, se habla de leyes, turismo, industria y progreso: “Hay que hacer fuerza entre todos para que esto empiece a cambiar. A los que arrancamos de abajo, pibes así como yo, se nos hace muy difícil”, afirma.

Capítulo II: Damián Larzábal

“Hoy por hoy, la planta es mi vida”, sacude Damián Larzábal, protagonista del segundo episodio de Legal.

Larzábal se crió en el barrio obrero La Teja, en Montevideo. Y, con el tiempo, se convirtió en un empresario cannábico consolidado en Uruguay y en el mundo.

Del barrio de su juventud, Damián cuenta: “En esta esquina donde estamos sentados, donde yo me he criado, antiguamente si te sentabas y te agarraba la policía fumando, te ponían contra la pared y te daban un palazo en las costillas”.

Y continúa: “Por suerte eso ya ha cambiado y hoy estamos sentados aquí, en la esquina de mi casa, fumando porro tranquilos”.

Larzábal emigró a España en el 2001. Ahí, un compañero del taller mecánico en el que trabajaba lo introdujo al universo del cultivo. “Él me enseñó lo que era la marihuana de verdad, porque nosotros lo que conocíamos era el prensado”, recuerda.

Además, en 2010, Damián presenció el boom de los grow shops en España, y conoció Spannabis, la feria de cannabis más grande de Europa. Con toda esa data, el uruguayo se formó para dar el salto.

Mientras, en Latinoamérica, empezó a despertarse la curiosidad por la marihuana. En un rol didáctico, Larzábal enseñaba a hacer abono y fertilizantes vía YouTube y establecía contacto con los aficionados del cono sur enviándoles semillas.

En 2018, de nuevo en Uruguay, fundó Montevideo Indoor Grow Shop en La Teja. En palabras del empresario: “No solamente es un grow shop. Es un estudio donde pudimos integrar peluqueros, barberos y tatuadores”.

También puede verse Montevideo Indoor Coffee Shop, una propuesta más orientada a los turistas y el próximo proyecto de Larzábal: una clínica/spa y un hostel. 

  • Host/idea original: Facu Santo Remedio (@facusantoremedio).
  • Cámara/edición: Federico Otegui (@fede_ote).
  • Beat: Wordplay.
  • Guión y dirección: Facu Santo Remedio y Federico Otegui.
  • Colaboran: @gema.contents, @rawlifeuruguay, @jamaica_blue_uy, @hemp.beer.company, @hemppassion_uy, @biofertilorganicos, @panchannabis, @clipperuy y @way2freshh.

Una realización de Gema Contents para El Planteo.

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Federal Drug Official Admits Legalization Doesn’t Increase Teen Use

A top U.S. federal drug policy official recently admitted that her prior fears that cannabis legalization would lead to an increase in teen marijuana use failed to materialize, saying that reform advocates were “right” about the impact cannabis policy change would have on young people. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), also said that she supports continued drug policy reform at the federal level.

Appearing on the podcast “Psychoactive” with Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, Volkow said that she was “expecting the use of marijuana among adolescents would go up” with the legalization of cannabis at the state level, but admitted that “overall, it hasn’t.”

Volkow, who has led NIDA since 2003, said that the impact of cannabis policy reform has varied, noting that some “states that have legalized actually have better outcomes” while “the adverse effects of marijuana use are much worse in some states.”

“Understanding what policies basically protect from negative effects and may actually lead to better outcomes is crucial,” she said. “And we’re funding it.”

But Volkow also acknowledged that research into the benefits and potential dangers of cannabis has been hampered by federal drug policy that makes obtaining marijuana for scientific studies “extraordinary cumbersome, and as a result of that, researchers don’t want to get into the field.”

The NIDA director also indicated that the agency, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, would continue funding research into the therapeutic use of psychedelics.

“We have been funding research that is ongoing—on ketamine for opiate treatment and also ketamine for pain,” she said. “For PCP, if you look at the data, actually, the evidence is strongest for showing potential benefits for depression.”

“We need to learn from what the evidence is showing us,” she continued. “If we can use ketamine for the treatment of severe depression in a way that is safe, this is an example of really that we can use drugs that we thought were dangerous and use them in ways that are therapeutic.”

NDIA Director Calls for Continued Drug Policy Reform

Volkow indicated her support for further drug policy reform including decriminalization, saying that “hopefully science will serve to change policies and reduce the stigma [around addiction] and basically change the notion of criminalizing people to that of treating and helping people and preventing them from relapsing.”

Nadelmann noted that Volkow’s comments were apparently inconsistent with the agency’s history, saying that NIDA has been “operating in a political context in which punitive prohibitionist policies, mass arrests [and] the heavily racial biases that go with all of that has been pervasive.” The host also suggested that Volkow and NIDA should focus more on the impact of harmful policy rather than the potential dangers associated with drug use.

“From day one, I’ve been against criminalization of people because they have a problem with substance use disorders. I’ve been very, very vocal,” Volkow replied. “One of the reasons why I took this position was because, I say, we can develop the science in such a way that policy changes.”

Volkow has also taken to other platforms in her role as NIDA director to call for further drug policy reform. In an opinion piece published by the health news website STAT last month, she wrote that ending stiff penalties for drug use would reduce harm and result in improved outcomes for the treatment of substance abuse disorders.

“Many people intersect with the criminal justice system as a direct or indirect result of their substance use disorders, and the experience may worsen their addiction and their physical and mental health,” Volkow wrote. “Imprisonment itself not only increases the likelihood of dying prematurely but also negatively impacts mental health and social adjustment via the stigma of having been incarcerated. And it has radiating effects: Incarceration of a parent increases their children’s risk of drug use, for example.”

And in an interview with the blog On Health, she commented on the pervasive disproportionate enforcement of drug prohibition, particularly among communities of color.

“It is clear that the United States is currently reckoning with a long history of discriminatory and racist policies, many of which still continue today,” said Volkow. “The War on Drugs was no exception, and by incarcerating Black people at disproportionately high rates, it has had radiating effects into health, economic security and mobility, education, housing, families – areas intrinsically connected with the well-being and success of so many Black and other people of color.”

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Cannabis Legalization Makes New Advances in the Midwest

The push to legalize cannabis in the Midwest is making new advances, with lawmakers in Wisconsin introducing a new bill and Ohio activists amending language for a proposed legalization measure. Meanwhile, regional early adopters Illinois and Michigan continue to post strong recreational marijuana sales with record-breaking months in July.

Last week, a group of Wisconsin lawmakers appeared at a cannabis dispensary in Illinois (where adult-use cannabis is legal) to unveil a bill that would legalize marijuana in the Badger State. Under the bill, adults 21 and over would be permitted to purchase and use recreational cannabis while adults 18 and up with debilitating health conditions would be allowed access to medical marijuana. Younger patients would be permitted to use cannabis medicinally with parental consent. Wisconsin currently has no provisions for legal cannabis, even as it is surrounded by four states with at least some form of legalized marijuana.

The lawmakers gathered at the Sunnyside dispensary in South Beloit, Illinois — only about 1,000 feet from the state border — to illustrate how many of the business’s customers are coming from Wisconsin. On an average day, half of the cars in the Sunnyside parking lot have Wisconsin license plates, according to South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl. At last week’s unveiling of the bill, Democratic Sen. Melissa Agard, who is the sponsor of the bill in the state Senate, said that cannabis legalization would be a good move for Wisconsin.

“Legalizing and taxing cannabis in Wisconsin just like we already do with alcohol ensures a controlled, safe market for our communities,” Agard said.

Fellow Democrat and Wisconsin State Assembly Rep. David Bowen noted that Wisconsin’s drug prohibition laws have not been enforced fairly and equitably.

“Under the failed war on drugs, enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws have disproportionately impacted communities of color,” said Bowen, the lead author of the legalization bill. “When an individual is arrested for nonviolent possession of marijuana, they are driven from their jobs, from their families and driven from their communities.”

Despite a 2019 Marquette University Law School poll showing that 59% of Wisconsin’s registered voters support cannabis legalization, approval of the bill in the state’s Republican-led legislature does not seem likely, according to media reports. Agard said that the sponsoring lawmakers will be circulating the bill for two weeks in order to gain co-sponsors before moving forward with the legislation.

Ohio Activists Resubmit Cannabis Legalization Petition Summary

In Ohio, citizens rather than lawmakers are leading the drive to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The cannabis reform group the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol resubmitted petition language for a proposed legalization measure. In early August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected an earlier draft of a summary of the proposal, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess, purchase, use and grow marijuana. After reviewing the proposal to ensure it was a “fair and truthful” description of the law, Yost cited a list of seven deficiencies in the summary and returned it to supporters for correction. The attorney general wrote, for example, that the summary did not adequately explain the “cannabis social equity and jobs program” and did not clearly indicate that home growers are limited to possessing up to six cannabis plants.

“In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost wrote in a letter to the group’s attorney.

Last Friday, supporters of the proposal resubmitted the summary after addressing the deficiencies noted by Yost.

“We appreciate the attorney general’s feedback on our initial filing, and have fully addressed the issues flagged in this updated filing” coalition spokesman Tom Haren said in a news release.

Once the summary is approved, supporters of the legalization proposal will be able to begin collecting petition signatures from Ohio registered voters. If the group collects at least 132,887 valid signatures, the proposal will head to the Ohio General Assembly for consideration. If lawmakers fail to approve the measure, supporters could collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before voters, perhaps as soon as the Nov. 2022 general election.

Midwest Cannabis Sales Break Records

If Wisconsin and Ohio successfully join the ranks of the states that have legalized cannabis in the Midwest, they will be able to tap into a market that continues to grow for the region’s early adopters of marijuana policy reform. On Aug. 3, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported that adult-use cannabis sales totaled $127.8 million in July, breaking a state record set only two months earlier by 10 percent. Jason Erkes, spokesman for Chicago-based cannabis multistate operator Cresco Labs, said that visitors attending the Lollapalooza music festival at the end of the month helped fuel the strong showing.

“Summer tourism and the Lollapalooza attendees were strong contributors to July’s out-of-state sales,” Erkes said.

Legal marijuana sales are breaking records in Michigan, as well. Last week, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) released cannabis sales figures for July. Together, medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis sales totaled $171 million, generating more than $23 million in tax revenue. MRA executive director Andrew Brisbo characterized July’s cannabis sales as “Another record month!”

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Last Call at Barcelona’s Cannabis Social Clubs?

Almost every city in the world has cafes—and in 2021, many American cities have legal cannabis—but nowhere else in the world can you find anything resembling the roughly 225 cannabis social clubs in Barcelona.

Plentiful, relatively simple to find, welcoming to tourists and (mostly) tolerated by authorities, Barcelona’s cannabis “asociaciones” make the Catalonian capital possibly the best “420 friendly” tourist destination in the world. Some would even argue they are better than Amsterdam’s coffeeshop scene, and certainly more welcoming than the U.S., where social consumption lounges are rare.

And now that’s all at risk of going away. As El Pais reported, in late July, the Catalan High Court ruled that Barcelona’s cannabis clubs can no longer “promote the consumption, sale or cultivation” of cannabis. The court also threw out regulations passed by local lawmakers in Barcelona—meaning, technically speaking, police could come and shut all 225 of them down tomorrow, as a stern letter sent recently to all 225 clubs from the Barcelona City Council warned.

Inspectors from city government will sometime soon visit all of the city’s asociaciones, “starting with the ones with the most negative impact and which are geared towards tourists and massive sales, with shutdown orders possible to follow investigations.

 A strike against cannabis tourism echoes a limited crackdown against certain foreign-friendly cannabis cafes in Holland—who risk penalties if they admit foreigners without proof of local residence. But in Barcelona, even locals-only  clubs are in jeopardy. “The majority of associations assume that sooner or later they will be forced to close down,” as Eric Asensio, a spokesman for the Federation of Catalan Cannabis Associations told the Guardian.

That hasn’t happened yet. Inspections have yet to begin, and while fines and imprisonment are on the table for any Barcelona associations who defy authorities,US-style police raids seem unlikely in Spain, where the drug war has taken a much softer tone—and particularly in Barcelona, long a bastion for progressive politics, where the mayor is a radical housing activist. (But American readers should remember: in Spain, law enforcement follow national rules rather than a patchwork of local rules.)

But as lawmakers and lawyers and advocates for associations like CatFac argue the meaning of the court’s ruling, Barcelona’s cannabis clubs are living in a state of anxiety and uncertainty.

Club owners and staffers interviewed for this article say the future is uncertain—but the trend seems to point towards a corporate takeover of Barcelona’s freewheeling cannabis community.

“It’s complicated, but for now nothing is happening,” said Nico , one of the co-owners of El Club Verde in the city’s El Raval neighborhood, not far from the city’s medieval Gothic Quarter, who declined to give his last name.

Nothing, he added, except for stress and uncertainty.

Back to illegality

In a story that will sound familiar to Californians, for years, Barcelona’s cannabis clubs existed in a sort of armistice zone. They weren’t legal, but as long as nobody was selling or smoking cannabis outside, and as long as clubs didn’t create much of a smell, or allow anyone strolling past to see what was inside—and as long as they didn’t advertise—everything was okay. Both police and citizens liked the fact that the associations reduced street dealing and consumption.

Though the initial idea was that clubs could be gathering places where people could smoke their own stash, associations quickly started selling cannabis to anyone who paid a membership fee. It’s not entirely clear if this cannabis is their own or if cultivation is controlled by organized crime.

Some club owners and observers will privately admit that other clubs are fronts for transnational criminal organizations—and indeed, some large clubs were classified as criminal enterprises and forced to close in 2014 before both the state of Catalonia and the city of Barcelona passed rules regulating the associations.

In a test case of unintended consequences, Mst clubs felt safe until one association contested the city’s rules around air filtration systems. The complaint reached the Catalan high court, which ruled the city was not free to make laws that violated regional drug statutes, and if Barcelona wanted cannabis clubs, they would have to wait until national lawmakers in Madrid legalized the drug nationally.

Waiting on Madrid

Since the court ruling, the City Council has suggested that cannabis clubs will be able to continue, but as gathering spaces only—no sales. CatFac is arguing that sales are still allowed, and has launched an effort to try to organize the associations in an effort to stay open and to pass friendly laws in Madrid.

In an interview, Patricia Amiguet, the president of CatFac, said she hopes this crisis can become a chance at something better—maybe even legalization. “We’re hoping it can be an opportunity to work together and get regulations in Catalonia,” she said.

In the meantime, there’s the familiar feeling of watching the door and wondering if the next knock is trouble. Will police arrive tomorrow, will the clubs survive until the next Spannabis? Is this it? Nobody can say.

“To be honest, nobody really knows what will happen, when, or how,” said Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, a drug policy researcher based in Barcelona. “Even authorities and the judiciary would be unable to tell you what will happen. There are many layers of government/laws/regulations involved and the enforcement of what has changed will be very complex.”

For now, he added, “we are back at the pre-2017 status when there was no [Barcelona] City Hall regulation and no Catalan regulation.”

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