THE URUGUAYAN WAY: Uruguay, the first country in the world to legalize cannabis sales, faces hurdles with hope.
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by Gregory Daurer


The second smallest country in all of South America has become the first in the world to initiate legal marijuana sales.

Uruguay — which, geographically, is about the same size as Missouri — began allowing pharmacies to sell cannabis on July 19th.

“As you can imagine, it feels great,” says agronomist Eduardo Blasina about the revolutionary changes in his country's cannabis laws. “When I was a child, we were living under a dictatorship.”

Today, Blasina, 52, works with a legal grow situated “nearby the top-security prison in Uruguay,” which provides marijuana to pharmacies. He also runs a learning center in the country's capital, the Cannabis Museum of Montevideo. Blasina says he started the museum “so people can learn that cannabis [has been] important all [throughout] human history — and not only because of the smoking part of it.”

Legal cannabis sales are the result of legislation passed by the country's parliament in 2013. The reforms were supported by then-Uruguayan President José Mujica, a onetime guerilla fighter. “We want to steal that business from the illegal market and bring it to the light day,” Mujica said in an interview broadcast by Fusion Media. In the past, much of the cannabis consumed in Uruguay has been pressed, low-quality brick weed grown in Paraguay by illegal operations.

But the newfound freedom has been accompanied by stringent regulations, and, for now, low-potency government-approved marijuana.

In order to purchase cannabis from a pharmacy, an “acquirer” — the official term — needs to register with the government. This entails filling out paperwork and providing an electronic fingerprint. Then, at the pharmacy, the person's fingerprint needs to be matched with the government's database, before the otherwise anonymous sale can take place. The law allows individuals 18 years of age and older to purchase up to 40 grams a month. By mid-August, 12,460 people in the nation of 3.4 million had registered to purchase cannabis. But only 16 pharmacies in the entire country have been willing to sell the plant.

And, so far, only two types are available for sale in those pharmacies. Alfa I is an indica hybrid with two percent THC and seven percent CBD. Beta I is a sativa hybrid with two percent THC and six percent CBD.  “I think they are nice, soft, they don't make you cough, good-flavored and good state of mind,” reports Blasina. “The only problem is demand is much bigger than supply.”

Laura Blanco, a cannabis activist and educator, says of the two offerings, “The people who smoke often and know the good flowers — it doesn't [get them high]. But the people who used to smoke the Paraguayan brick [weed], they say it's okay, that it's the same in the high.”

Although she's personally inclined to view cannabis containing only two percent THC as “a joke,” Blanco allows,  “I think it's a good beginning, but they have to improve the quality.”

Luckily, the law allows for adjustments.

“They've built flexibility into their system,” says Hannah Hetzer of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which worked with civil society groups (such as trade and student unions, human rights and LGBT organizations), as well as prominent citizens in Uruguay, to advocate for the 2013 policy changes. “So they're starting off a little bit more restrictive, and then, later on, if [the government wants] higher THC levels, they can make some adjustments as needed. They wanted to have a very slow and cautious start.”

National flag of Uruguay flying in Tres Cruces district of Montevideo, Uruguay. Montevideo is the capital and largest city of Uruguay. Photo by Don Mammoser.

Blasina thinks more strains will be for sale in pharmacies in the future.

But recently there have also been banking problems for pharmacies. Citing international regulations, banks have been telling pharmacy clients that they won't accept businesses that deal with cannabis. “They are making things difficult,” Blanco says about the banks. Mujica, now a senator, has threatened to enact a gridlock in Parliament unless the situation is resolved.

Pharmacies aren't the only way for Uruguay's citizens to gain access to cannabis, though. The 2013 national directive has also allowed personal cultivation, as well as the formation of cannabis membership clubs where users can share the harvest of plants. As with sales from pharmacies, self-cultivators and membership clubs also need to register with the government. According to the government's statistics for August 15, there are 63 membership clubs and 6,996 self-cultivators. Given that Blanco says Uruguayans can purchase, for example, European and North American-derived seeds, higher-THC cannabis is available to those willing to grow it themselves.

And while the changes have also allowed medical marijuana to be distributed by the country's Ministry of Public Health, that agency says on its website that it's awaiting access to imported pharmaceuticals — not domestic flower. Perhaps indicative of attitudes in Uruguay, its current president, Tabaré Vázquez, is an oncologist who says that he's never recommended cannabis to any of his patients, according to a report in the newspaper El Pais. “He's not a huge advocate, but he's also not a naysayer,” Hetzer says of Vázquez's position on legal cannabis.

Yet simultaneously, a therapeutic CBD preparation made from hemp is in the works by a private company, which has received governmental funding. The company, CannaPur, was granted $59,506 from the country's Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining for the product's development. Joshua Young, a CannaPur representative, says his company's first order of business is registering its proprietary high-CBD strain. After that takes place the company plans to sell therapeutic CBD-oil products in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia – countries in which it's already acquired pre-sales agreements.

Asked why he thinks the government has taken a risk on CannaPur, Young says, “I think they saw the expertise of our team.” In addition to being overseen by an experienced international attorney and an experienced medical device distributor, one of CannaPur's cultivators is Juan Vaz, a self-described grower of “gourmet cannabis” who Young says is considered “the Ed Rosenthal of Latin America. Everybody knows him, everybody respects him.”

Uruguay has garnered respect for possessing one of the highest standards of living in Latin America and a highly touted human rights record. (As an example, the country has legalized same-sex marriage.) And now it has legal cannabis sales, too.

However, don't consider visiting Montevideo for marijuana, as one would Amsterdam. “A lot of people think they can travel to Uruguay and consume marijuana, but I want to clarify that the system is just for Uruguayans or residents,” says Hetzer.

“They don't want Uruguay to be perceived as a place that's just going legal for drugs,” adds Young.

While Uruguay has had to assure its neighbor Argentina that Uruguayan cannabis won't be flooding over the border, Hetzer says, “In general, there hasn't been a lot of pushback from other Latin American countries. To the contrary, a lot of them have looked to Uruguay with interest ... If Uruguay can prove you can regulate [cannabis] effectively, then others might follow suit.”

Uruguay's changes in drug policy are remarkable in light of how low the support is domestically for legal cannabis sales. A recent survey revealed that 50 percent Uruguayans are against pharmacies selling cannabis, according to the newspaper El Pais. Only 27 percent are in favor, while 19 percent are neutral.

But for many supporters, the newly enacted policies are highly welcome.

Blasina says of his country's radical yet cautious changes, “We are very proud – and we also have a feeling of great responsibility, in that we need to show to the world that we have made a good decision.” ♦

Public Debate: As Denver Prepares for Cannabis Consumption, Some Businesses are Ahead of the Game
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by Matthew Van Deventer, photos courtesy of Heidi Keyes

Heidi Keyes, Owner/Founder of Puff, Pass, Paint

In 2014 Heidi Keyes founded the first Puff, Pass, Paint in Denver on a whim of passion. She didn’t expect it to be so successful and the odds were against her considering Denver was (and still is) lacking a framework that encourages or even allows social consumption.

However, Keyes, like a handful of other entrepreneurs, found a place in the law for her business. Today there are seven Puff, Pass, Paint programs across the country, each navigating the consumption laws of the city it’s in.

“I didn’t know they would be successful. [They] started on passion,” says Keyes. “I think people can genuinely tell we care about the plant and what we do to destigmatize [cannabis].”

In Colorado it’s illegal to consume cannabis in public, and places where locals and tourists can go to smoke it are few and far. Hotels usually don’t allow smoking in rooms, and it’s not allowed in bars or any other public establishment, so people resort to a front porch, risk doing it illegally in a public setting, or find one of a handful of private cannabis clubs.

Keyes’ business is one of a few that has managed to stay afloat. She says a lot of their out of town guests are frustrated and surprised when they land and find out they can’t smoke their cannabis. Many of them are consuming it legally for the first time and they want to do it right.

People who want to puff, pass, and paint, must reserve tickets online. Many locations don’t even give guests an address until they purchase a ticket for the private event. Guests must be at least 21 years old, are required to sign a waiver when they get there, and it’s BYOC — Bring Your Own Cannabis.

They don’t just stick with painting either, says Keyes. There are other classes like pottery, sewing, cooking and even classes for those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s not just a fun thing, it’s something that helps people relax,” says Keyes.

Each class is two hours and is instructor-led, but they aren’t overly structured; people can paint what they want because the point is to encourage creativity, fun, and relaxation with a little help from cannabis.

“Even if you’re not an artist, we want to keep it really laid back to encourage creativity,” Keyes continues. “It’s not pressured, even if you don’t typically make art.”

Coloradopotguide.com lists about 10 clubs mostly in Denver and Colorado Springs, where people can consume cannabis. They are private, members-only clubs, most of which require their guests bring their own cannabis and they don’t necessarily have a creative activity set up for guests. They are more just places for people to hangout.

Denver’s longest running club, iBake, charges members $10 a month plus two dollars a visit. It offers T.V.s, movies, video games and board games.

The Lazy Lion in Colorado Springs claims to be the first dab bar in the world. It offers its members concentrates, edibles, and flowers through its “reimbursement” plan, according to the website. Members who have signed an agreement can reimburse the club for up to an ounce of cannabis at one time.

Other programming that has found the  sweet spot in the law is touring. Guests on a cannabis tour are shuttled around the city usually in some sort of party bus where they can safely and legally consume.

Mike Eymer is the founder and CEO of Colorado Cannabis Tours. He was involved in the initial talks of I-300, an initiative passed by Denver voters last November that set in motion the creation of a social consumption pilot program. However, after months of back and forth with industry and neighborhood advocates as well as local lawmakers, the initiative came up short in the eyes of Denver’s cannabis industry, including Eymer.

“I don’t think anybody is entirely satisfied with what they’ve gotten approved or passed. It was supposed to be more than it currently is. I’m fairly lukewarm about it,” says Eymer.  

People questioned why he got involved in the initiative since his brand, which purchased Puff, Pass, Paint in 2015, is and always has been operating within the law and won’t be affected by the pilot program. Eymer says he wants to see more competition in the industry, instead of businesses being forced to operate in the sliver of legal space available to them.

“We as a company believe competition is good, and competition is lacking in this department. We know we are at often times frustrated by copycat businesses because they think this is the only way to do it,” Eymer says. “So we really wanted more options for people because you simply can’t lock good entrepreneurs and good ideas out of this state.”

Eymer speculates that I-300 was a test of Kayvan Khalatbari, a lead architect of the initiative and now 2018 Denver mayoral candidate, to see how local legislators’ law making processes could incorporate community input in creating a law everyone could get behind.

“I think he might be coming up with his answer right now, which could be behind part of his run for mayor . . . part of this may be proving one way or another they’re going to try to thwart us,” suggests Eymer.

The voter-approved initiative was sold as a way to enact rules that would treat cannabis like alcohol and allow guests at clubs, theaters, and public events to consume cannabis freely. But that didn’t necessarily happen. Instead, after months of committee meetings, it became apparent that the next fight the cannabis community must grapple with is consumption.

At a June public hearing about the initiative, neighborhood advocates, established homeowners, and neighborhood associations like the West Washington Park Neighborhood Association praised the ordinance while some wanted it even more strict. Speakers from the cannabis community voiced their concern that it would crush any potential entrepreneurial spirit and make the city and state less competitive as other parts of the country open up legalization.

The passed law requires businesses seeking a consumption license to be in good standing with the neighborhood, have an odor mitigation plan in place, be 1,000 feet away from a school or public park, and prohibits them from serving alcohol, among other rules. A spokesperson for Denver Department of Excise and Licenses says they won’t be able to processes applications until August 31.

In an ideal world, Eymer says,  “You should be able to walk into a cannabis club, sit down at a bar setting, pay for a dab, pay for a joint, consume it there, and leave.”

He likens it to going to a baseball game and being able to choose from an array of different brands of beer and liquor. The same could go for cannabis, where guests at a club or event can choose a joint, dab, or flower manufactured by their favorite company.

Businesses like Colorado Cannabis Tours and Puff, Pass, Paint won’t be affected by the ordinance — they were legal before and will continue to be so. However, the fate of the industry’s creative programming is at stake. On the larger scale, so is Colorado’s competitiveness as a cannabis tourism destination. 

However, successful ventures like Puff, Pass, Paint not only help people relax, be creative and safely consume cannabis socially, but also progress the industry.

Keyes continues, “These types of events really help to destigmatize cannabis and therefore normalize it, and help push legalization nationwide. Other states do look at us, see tax dollars coming in [as] states [are] trying to figure it for themselves.” ♦

Hazy 420 Future: Denver’s 4/20 Rally Faces Uncertainty
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by Matthew Van Deventer, photo by Samuel Farley

The organizer for the Annual Denver 4/20 Rally largely blames big business and big government for prohibiting him from getting a permit for the event for three years, for which he had priority status, and fining him nearly $12,000.

“They want an organization that’s going to be about big business and big government at the same time. And so we’re not prepared or willing to rub arms with the mayor, the governor, or president or anybody unless they’re willing to have a civil engagement about equality,” says Miguel Lopez. Lopez has organized the 4/20 rally for the past nine years, since before there was a permit for the event. The cannabis industry was built on grassroots efforts, he says, which has opened the door to big business that can still serve as a source of racial disparities.

The day after the Denver 4/20 Rally in 2017, clean-up crews found Civic Center Park, where the rally is held every year, completely trashed. Media outlets were showing pictures of garbage strewn across the park, like someone had come through and ripped open the bags, scattering the contents everywhere, which is what Lopez, claimed had happened overnight.

Lopez told us that the company supplying the trash cans had dropped them off late so a lot of garbage went on the ground, which made the detail clean-up the following day after it rained overnight much more challenging. However, that was just one of the reasons the city shut him down.

Rally crews do an initial clean the day of the event and then they go back starting the following morning. The organizer claims to have spent over $2.2 million on clean-up efforts over the past eight years. They’ve been cleaning up the park by utilizing contractors, volunteers and even some of the homeless people who frequent the park.

“It’s not the event being penalized it’s the permit holder. There’s the misunderstanding that everyone thinks there’s not going to be another 4/20 event, but that’s not the case.”

“It not only lifts their morale, but it also gives them a sense of responsibility of taking care of their park, because for some it’s home,” explains Lopez who also says they leave the park cleaner
than other events.

About a month after the rally, Mayor Michael Hancock decreed that there would be a full-scale review of the procedures and policies of park permits to make sure they were compliant with the city’s Public Event Policy and Park Rules and Regulations.

Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which issues park permits for events in Civic Center Park, stripped Lopez of his status. DPR in a statement said Lopez violated many policies attached to the permit like properly cleaning the park after the rally, noise ordinances, as well as safety and security protocols.

“We value our parks, especially Civic Center— it’s in the heart the of the city ... there’s a lot of big events that are multi-day events that adhere to the policies set forth on the [permit]. So it’s not the event, it’s the permit holder, because we can’t discriminate against content of the event,” explains Cynthia Karvaski, a spokesperson for Denver Parks and Recreation. At least one local news outlets questioned DPR’s decisions; 9News asked them if they could get a permit for an orgy in the park.

Karvaski explains that they wouldn’t be able to issue a permit for an orgy, because that would be illegal. They could, however, issue a permit for something like a sex and orgy education event.

And then maybe they could get what they wanted, if laws weren’t enforced. Similarly, it is illegal to smoke weed in public and parks. It’s pretty well known that at the 4/20 rally a few people smoke cannabis. But there’s not enough resources to clamp down on it. So it happens.

Lopez has since filed for an appeal of the ruling. If it’s reversed, Lopez will be able to apply again in November.

Fear not, though, because if the ruling sticks, Karvaski says the event could still go on: “It’s not the event being penalized, it’s the permit holder. There’s the misunderstanding that everyone thinks there’s not going to be another 4/20 event, but that’s not the case.” ♦

20ish Questions with Jared Polis: Colorado Congressman and Gubernatorial Candidate
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by Matthew Van Deventer

Outspokenly cannabis-friendly U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder County has officially thrown his hat into the crowded race to replace Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who is facing his term limit. Because of the state’s strict limits on fundraising, Polis, the internet-entrepreneur turned politician with an estimated worth of $140 million to $468 million, may already have a top spot.
Polis’ top campaign promises include powering Colorado with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, providing parents with access to free preschool and kindergarten, and pushing companies to provide employees with stock options.

As for cannabis, Polis says he doesn’t want to move cautiously, but instead make sure regulations work for businesses and consumers, and he wants to keep Colorado competitive as other states look to legalize it.

He took time out of his busy congressional voting schedule and running for governor to speak with THC.

THC: Last we spoke you had recently formed the Cannabis Caucus to educate your colleagues and introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. How have those been received?

Jared Polis: I think we are gaining support every day for marijuana reform in Congress. I think we have support today if we could get an amendment to the floor that would prevent the Department of Justice from [prosecuting] marijuana related offenses where it’s legal under state law. But the challenge is getting it to the floor. . . I think we need to get to a federal framework that’s consistent with how we look at alcohol and tobacco and address legitimate concerns around safety and smuggling, but create a framework that allows for states to fully implement legalized marijuana and their own regulatory systems.

THC: And what about the Cannabis Caucus?

JP: We had a great [Marijuana Thinkers Talk and Expo on the Hill] and we featured a number of folks who are [from] across the country. It’s great to have that bipartisan imprint of Democrats and Republicans as we seek to educate my colleagues about cannabis reform.

THC: How long have you been thinking about running for governor and what made you decide to go for it?

JP: I am honored to serve at any level just as I really enjoyed starting businesses and creating hundreds of jobs. I enjoyed starting a school for new immigrants and homeless youth. I’m really excited to give back, and I think [there are] a lot of opportunities to give back, whether it’s moving towards a renewable energy economy, establishing universal preschool and kindergarten or just making sure our economic success works for everybody, not just a few—the action will be at the state level.

THC: What’s that transition from representative to gubernatorial candidate going to look like for you?

JP: I have executive experience in the business sector. I also have executive experience at the state level having chaired the State Board of Education. And frankly, I welcome the opportunity and the responsibility of that kind of position. I think that for us to move forward as a state we’re going to need strong leadership and bold leadership at the state level and that’s one of the reasons I decided to run.

THC: How will your pro-cannabis stance translate to a governorship?

JP: I don’t think we need to be cautious about it. We need to make cannabis regulations work for our state, for businesses, for consumers and I’m excited to tackle that. I think Colorado’s leadership role in the cannabis industry will be challenged by states like California and Washington, and we need to make sure that we keep a lot of those good jobs right here in Colorado.

THC: Voters in Denver recently passed a social consumption pilot program. Many people in the industry think its limited scope will knock us down on the competitive totem pole. Do you have any plans for how you will help keep Colorado competitive in that way?

JP: A lot of those decisions should be made at the local level, and they are made at the local level. Different communities decide whether they want to have dispensaries, how many they have, how they want to regulate social consumption . . . these are all dealt with locally and they’re very important issues as people select their mayors and city council candidates.

THC: What’s your strategy look like headed into such a crowd governor’s race and how do you feel about your place in the arena?

JP: I’m working hard to earn every vote and taking no votes for granted. So I think it’s a wide open field to continue the legacy of Governor Hickenlooper of growing our economy and creating jobs. And I’m excited to offer a vision for an economy that works for everybody, and creating tens of thousands of green jobs that can’t be outsourced, and improving our schools to make sure we have a first-class education system in place for next generation Coloradans.

THC: How did energy, free access to preschool and kindergarten, and employee stock options become your focus?

JP: There’s a lot more, obviously, than that, but I think the fundamental question that we need to answer as Americans and Coloradans is how can economic growth work for everybody not just investors and executives. And I think a big part of the answer is encouraging employee ownership in all of its forms and that means stock options. It means formalized profit sharing. It means ESOPs (employee stock ownership plans). It means co-ops. All the different forms that it can take, we want to make sure that those who work hard every day to create the value have their incentives aligned with the investors and management and also to see their share of the profits from the sale or from profitabilities.

THC: What about renewable energy and free access to preschool and kindergarten?

JP: There’s so many reasons to move to 100 percent renewable energy. I have a plan at polisforcolorado.com to do it by 2040. It’s for clean air. It’s to do our part on climate. It creates green jobs that can’t be outsourced and it creates an economy that’s energy independent and gives us an advantage over other states and countries that will rely on the price variability of fossil fuels that are subject to global markets and global forces that they don’t control.

Education is where I’ve done much of my professional work. I served six years on the state board of education. I’ve started two schools; I’ve served as superintendent of one. And I’ve served on the Education and Workforce Committee in Washington. The most important and impactful thing we can do to improve opportunity for success is have universal preschool and kindergarten in our state. So we’re going to build a coalition with Republicans and Democrats and the business community to get it done.

THC: What else tops your list?

JP: I would say another challenge facing the state is transportation and infrastructure. We’ve had a lot of growth. We have a lot of traffic. We need smart planning, transit-oriented communities that are bus and rail systems in our metro area. We need to get ahead of the curve with regard to traffic and growth rather than always playing catch-up.

THC: How do you plan on bringing Colorado Democrats and Republicans together?

JP: I have a proven record of doing that work in my experience. I’m a member of the “no labels group” where we bring Democrats and Republicans together around solving problems. I think the challenges that Colorado faces are not partisan challenges. Republicans and Democrats want quality preschool and kindergarten for their kids. Republicans and Democrats want clean air. Republicans and Democrats want to make sure that the economy works for everybody. So we should focus on what brings us together rather than what separates us.

THC: What sort of relationship do you envision having with the Trump Administration?

JP: As a governor you have to work with whatever administration is in charge. But certainly we worry about their actions with regard to the legal cannabis industry. It’s too early to say, but we’re scared of some of the rhetoric from both the attorney general and others. As the governor, I would continue my efforts to push back against any and all federal efforts that interfere with our state laws.

THC: You’ve been back and forth with the oil and gas industry, what’s that relationship going to be like and how would you work with it?

JP: Well, look, with my plan for 100 percent renewable energy the goal is 2040, so that means that the grid will continue. That’s talking about the retirement of the last coal plant, the last natural gas burning facility and certainly I’ve been active in empowering communities to be able to successfully integrate — to have a planning process around integrating oil and gas extraction in their communities.

Among the other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls are former State Sen. Mike Johnston, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Intertech Plastics founder Noel Ginsburg, and businessman Erik Underwood.

On the Republican side, seven candidates have declared they’re running for governor including prosecuting attorney of the Aurora Theater shooting, George Brauchler; Mitt Romney’s nephew, Doug Robinson; the co-chair of President Donald Trump’s election campaign in Denver, Steve Barlock; and former State Rep. Victor Mitchell.  ♦

Trump Threatens Adult-Use Cannabis
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by DJ Reetz

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday made the bold claim that the Trump Department of Justice would likely be targeting adult-use marijuana in the eight states that have voted to legalize it. While Spicer was clear that this would not include attacks on state medical marijuana programs, the news is troubling for the markets that have so far flourished in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, as well as the burgeoning industry in Alaska and the prospective industries in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine that have yet to take shape.

Spicer tied any forthcoming enforcement to an effort to stymie the opioid epidemic, saying that the federal government shouldn’t be “encouraging people” by allowing adult-use cannabis laws.

Drawing a clear distinction between medical laws, which have previously been protected from federal meddling by an attachment to a previous appropriations bill that barred the Department of Justice from spending money interfering with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

“That’s something that the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into,” said Spicer. “They are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.”

Despite Spicer’s unfounded claim that adult-use marijuana somehow worsens the crisis of opioid addiction, most data shows that medical cannabis laws lessens opioid use.  A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed a 25 percent lower rate of death due to opioid overdose in states with medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010.

Another study out of the University of Athens looked at data from 2010 to 2013, finding that on average of doctors prescribed 1826 fewer doses of pain medications, including opioids, in states with medical marijuana programs.

A study published in The International Journal of Drug Policy found that 63 percent of respondents registered to receive medical cannabis were using the plant in place of prescription drugs.

Spicer’s claim that progressive cannabis laws lead to increased opioid use may not be based in fact, but the impact on tax revenues and local economies that enforcement actions predicated on this claim are more easily nailed down. Colorado sold over $1 billion in cannabis sales last year, generating more than $127 million in tax and fees for the state.

Earlier in the press conference, Spicer stated clearly that Trump represented a party that believed strongly in states’ rights. 


CBD Fights Back: Lawsuit Filed Against DEA
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by DJ Reetz

A lawsuit filed on January 13, 2017 aims to push back against a recent DEA decision to create a separate tracking number for “marihuana extracts” under the Controlled Substances Act, effectively codifying all cannabinoids derived from marijuana or hemp as Schedule I controlled substances. The lawsuit was filed by the Hoban Law Group in the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on the same day the new ruling was set to take effect, and seeks judicial review of the decision, claiming that the DEA has overstepped their authority in adding this definition of “marihuana extract” to the controlled substance schedule without following proper procedures to do so as outlined in the CSA. Serving as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Hemp Industries Association, Centura Natural Foods, and RMH Holdings.     

The DEA’s announcement in the federal registry published on December 14, 2016 raised concerns amongst many in the cannabis industry that the DEA would begin to target producers and distributors of hemp-derived CBD, which would fall under the definition of “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” outlined in the DEA’s final ruling.

“This is an action beyond the DEA’s authority. This final rule serves to threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of growing businesses, with massive economic and industry expansion opportunities, all of which conduct lawful business compliant with existing policy as it is understood and in reliance upon the federal government," said Hoban Law Group Managing Partner Robert Hoban in a press release.

The DEA has claimed that the ruling presented in the recent federal register amounted to little more than a clerical decision carried out in order to make tracking cannabinoid extracts easier, but many in the hemp CBD industry saw it as the first step toward a federal crackdown on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has thus far operated nationally in somewhat of a legal gray area.

The true impact of the classification will likely be seen in the coming months and years.


2016 Election: Cannabis Wins Big
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by DJ Reetz

Results from the 2016 election might seem grim, but the silver lining seems to be the sweeping victory for cannabis. Nine states voted on cannabis measures, eight of which passed despite the often staunch opposition from the political hierarchy in many of these states.

The biggest news is likely the passage of Proposition 64 in California, which was approved by 56 percent of voters in the state. California has served as one of the vanguards of cannabis progress since passing the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996. Unlike some other measures, 64 saw strong support from the state’s elected officials, including an endorsement from Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Proposition 64 levies an excise tax of $9.25 per ounce of cannabis flower and $2.75 per ounce of leaves on cultivators, as well as 15 percent on retail sales. That money is designated for the state’s Marijuana Tax Fund, intended to cover administration of the state’s adult-use program, with excess going to research and harm mitigation. Some $10 million of this excise revenue will be handed out to public universities studying the impacts of legalization, $3 million has been earmarked annually for the California Highway Patrol to develop protocols fro determining driver impairment, $2 million will be given to UC San Diego for medical cannabis research, and $10 million will be given to local health departments and non-profits to pay for various substance abuse, mental health and job placement programs. That last number is set to increase by $10 million every year until it reaches $50 million in 2020. Any additional money held in the in the Marijuana Tax Fund will go toward youth programs, environmental mitigation related to illegal outdoor grows, and reducing the number of stoned drivers or other wise combating unforeseen negative effects of the measure. Additionally, local governments could impose their own sales tax.

Some concern was raised by members of California’s medical marijuana community, who worried that the taxes would be levied on patients, though 64 includes exemptions on some taxes for medical producers.    

 Nevada followed suit with the passage of Question 2. Similarly to California’s measure, the law imposes a 15 percent excise tax on cultivation and annual fees ranging from $3,000 to $30,000, depending on the type of license, in addition to the one-time application fee of $5,000. This money is designated to the Nevada Department of Taxation and local governments to cover the cost of administering the program. Any additional money has been earmarked for the State Distributive School Account.

In Massachusetts, Question 4 passed with support of 53.6 percent of voters, despite strong opposition from Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, among others. Adult-use sales will be subject to existing state sales taxes as well as 3.75 percent excise tax. Local governments will have the option to levy up to an additional 2 percent tax on sales. State taxes and licensing fees will go into the Marijuana Regulation Fund, which will pay for the program’s regulation.

Maine also legalized adult-use cannabis for those 21 and over with the passage of Question 1. Adult-use cannabis will be subject to a 10 percent excise tax on all sales. Notably, Question 1 included language relating to cannabis clubs, where cannabis could be both sold and consumed.

Of the adult-use measure on ballots, only Arizona’s failed to pass. In a narrow loss, Proposition 205 failed with a vote of 52.14 percent opposed to 47.86 in favor.  

On the medical front, victories in North Dakota, Arkansas and a sweep in Florida will bring medical cannabis programs to those states. A measure restoring some of the medical marijuana program in Montana, decimated by the state legislature in 2011, passed with 56.96 percent in favor.  

In Colorado, the progress on cannabis issues continued, or at least held firm. The defeat of Proposition 200 in Pueblo County and Proposition 300 in the city of Pueblo protects the adult-use industry there. Both measures sought to ban sales, production and testing of adult-use cannabis, which have provided the impoverished area with an estimated 1,000 jobs and millions in related revenue and taxes.

Voters in Denver narrowly approved Initiative 300, which will allow for cannabis consumption licenses as part of a city pilot program. The program will, for the first time since the opening of adult-use dispensaries in 2014, give cannabis purchasers in the city a legal place to consume outside of private residences, as well as allow for consumption events.

These victories represent significant progress for cannabis nationally. With nearly 50 million more people now living in adult-use states, a change in federal attitudes toward the plant seems closer than ever. Medical cannabis victories in states with heavy conservative leanings also show promise of shifting attitudes.



LivWell Announces Solidarity with Pueblo Cannabis Growers
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Colorado’s leading cannabis company announces Pueblo-grown cannabis now available in its stores to support the county’s cannabis industry in light of efforts to ban recreational sales.


DENVER—October 27, 2016 — LivWell Enlightened Health announced today that it will begin offering Pueblo-grown cannabis for sale at its adult-use stores to support Pueblo’s legal cannabis industry, which is currently under dire threat by Issue 200. Were 200 to pass this November, it would ban all legal and regulated adult-use cannabis sales in the county, devastating the area’s growing industry and breathing life back into the shrinking criminal market.

 LivWell will immediately begin offering its customers $89.99 pre-weigh recreational ounces of cannabis grown outdoors by Pueblo cultivator, Los Sueňos Farms. LivWell historically produces the bulk of the cannabis it sells, but company owner and CEO John Lord believes that the threat facing Pueblo deserves more than just the monetary and political support the company has provided so far.

 “Issue 200 seeks to overturn the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved of recreational cannabis with the passage of Amendment 64,” said Lord. “This is not just an issue for Pueblo, but for all of Colorado. We are proud to support those companies bringing good-paying jobs to Pueblo by offering the fruits of their labor to our recreational customers across the state.”

 Despite having no retail presence within the county, LivWell is already one of the top-5 financial backers of the effort to defeat 200. LivWell’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Neal Levine is also serving as part of the campaign leadership team. Earlier this year, Levine helped to lead the successful effort to keep a statewide measure off of the ballot that would have wiped out most of the adult use cannabis industry in Colorado.

 “We cannot sit idly by and allow the prohibitionists to wipe out 1,300 good paying jobs in Pueblo based on falsehoods and scare tactics.” said Levine, who also serves as a board member for the National Cannabis Industry Association, the cannabis industry’s national trade association

 The cannabis industry in Pueblo has brought a much-needed economic boost to an area still dealing with the aftershocks that accompanied the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980’s. The cannabis industry has contributed directly to the creation of more than 1,300 jobs there, and cannabis-related companies accounted for more than 65% of all the commercial building permits issued in the county last year. As of May 2015, the county’s unemployment rate of 7.1% is far higher than the state overall (4.2%). Passage of Issue 200 would devastate economic prospects in this southern Colorado jurisdiction, which have otherwise looked quite promising thanks to the hundreds of cannabis companies that currently comprise the region’s budding marijuana industry.

 “200 is another deceptive effort in an increasingly long line of deceptive efforts to roll back Amendment 64 piece by piece,” said Lord. “We expect the entire industry to continue to step up and fight these threats wherever and whenever they pop up.”

 By offering Pueblo-grown cannabis to its customers, LivWell aims to raise awareness about this important issue among its large customer base and to demonstrate solidarity with its fellow southern Colorado cannabis workers.


About LivWell

LivWell Enlightened Health is among Colorados largest cannabis companies, with fourteen locations across the state. LivWell provides its patients and customers with the best value, quality and variety of cannabis products including flower, topicals, tinctures, edibles, smoking accessories and more. LivWells team of innovative farmers and scientists grow more than 40 strains of cannabis to meet the varied and evolving tastes of its customers. LivWells searchable strain library can be found at http://www.livwell.com/product-category/strains/. LivWell employees undergo rigorous training and education through LivWell University, preparing them to be the most knowledgeable, helpful budtenders in the industry, and to become advocates of responsible use. LivWell employs approximately 500 Coloradans who enjoy higher-than-average salaries and benefits. For more information, including a list of LivWells locations, visit http://www.livwell.com.

Several States Voting on Legalization Measures
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By Erin Hiatt

November 8, 2016 could be the day that forever changes the trajectory of legalized marijuana in the United States and even perhaps drug policy throughout the world. Spanning California to Maine, five states have marijuana legalization on their ballots while three others will be voting on medical marijuana initiatives. True to the states-rights way, the ballot language varies and provides for different systems of regulation. What they do have in common is that an adult-use, legal market only applies to those 21-years and older.


In Arizona, The Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act follows fairly closely the trail blazed by Colorado and is sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), an organization whose mission is to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Upon legalization, you may possess and consume cannabis and grow up to six plants. The initiative calls for a 15 percent tax on all marijuana sales that would be dedicated to education and healthcare. Arizona has had medical marijuana for six years and medical dispensaries, as part of this initiative, would be able to make the move to retail. There are several groups, including Arizonans for Mindful Regulation (a competing but defeated legalization initiative), the Arizona Republican Party, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry opposing the initiative, but many expect that it will pass.


The Maine Legalize Marijuana Initiative, or Question 1, would designate marijuana as an “agricultural product” and would lay the plant under the purview of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. Question 1 differs from other states in key ways. Like Amsterdam and Spain, Question 1 would allow for marijuana social clubs where adults may buy and consume on site. It also borrows from Washington DC’s “grow and give” model, where you may grow up to six flowering plants and keep the bounty. Question 1 has the endorsement of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and famous travel writer and marijuana enthusiast Rick Steves, who pledged to match donations to the initiative up to $50,000. Anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and local marijuana growers are opposed to Question 1, both of them fearing a takeover of the market by moneyed interests.


Rick Steves, true to his traveling self, makes yet another appearance in Massachusetts, joining forces with the ACLU of Massachusetts to rally behind the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, aka Question 4. Should it pass, it would be legal to have one ounce of marijuana on your person and up to 10 ounces in your home. It also allows for a home grow of six plants and to give up to an ounce to another adult without payment. The law would create the Cannabis Control Commission that would oversee the regulations and ancillary services that go hand-in-hand with a legal market. The taxes collected from marijuana sales would go into the Marijuana Regulation Fund set-up to pay for the bill’s administration. Question 4 also provides some protections for marijuana-using adults who have minor children at home, ensuring that unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence of marijuana abuse that children will remain with their families.


Question 2 in Nevada would allow for retail purchases and for those living more than 25 miles away from a licensed establishment permission to grow up to six plants, provided that the grow is enclosed and locked tight. The proposed 15 percent excise tax would be directed to the Department of Taxation, who would oversee all aspects of the program. Any funds in excess of those costs would go to the general fund and be designated to benefit public education. Helmed by MPP, Question 2 has wide support from local lawmakers who see it as a potential boon to the tourist industry, upon which Las Vegas in particular depends. Given its likelihood to pass, you can bet there will be more and more things happening and staying in Vegas.


The legalization vote that everyone, especially law enforcement and policymakers will be keeping their eye on is California. If voters mark the “yes” box on the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA), the untamed, unregulated medical marijuana market that CA has had for the past 20-years will get broken-in at last. California is the sixth largest economy in the world, so the performance of an adult-use market there may be a harbinger of marijuana’s economic impact in other states and countries. Should voters pass the AUMA, legal marijuana will be available to more people than all four current legal states combined. Heavy hitters like former Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and the California Medical Association are backing this initiative. Drug policy reform organizations have been working with lawmakers and others to painstakingly craft an initiative that addresses the myriad aspects of drug policy reform. Of the $1 billion in projected revenue, money is allocated to medical marijuana and legalization research, DUI protocols, and financial support for the communities, largely minority, who have suffered the most from punitive drug policies. They’ve also considered small growers, including a ban on large-scale manufacture for the first five years of the program, and have allocated funds to clean-up environmental damages wrought by illegal grows. Under the AUMA, marketing to minors would be banned and rules would be laid down from the onset regarding packaging, advertising, marketing, and labeling. A 15 percent retail tax would be assessed, with some exemption for medical marijuana. The AUMA also includes hemp and paves the way for those with marijuana convictions to be resentenced and their records cleared. Among those who have voiced opposition are the California Growers Association for fear they will be gobbled up by an adult-use market. Legalization plans for CA have been in the works for a very long time and some drug policy insiders believe that this is a “make or break” moment for a legal marijuana industry. Many are predicting that the AUMA will get the “yes” box checked, but when marijuana legalization was last on the ballot in 2010, voters in the Golden State said “no, thanks.”

Medical initiatives

If all the adult-use ballot initiatives become law that will bring the tally of fully legal states to nine, ten when you add the District of Columbia. There are three states voting on medical marijuana initiatives and if they pass, the number of medical states would jump to 28. Here are the states voting on medical marijuana this fall.


In Arkansas, the Medical Marijuana Act, if passed, would be by far the most extensive medical marijuana program in the south. It would allow for home grows under specific conditions, create payment systems for low-income patients, and cover an incredibly broad range of conditions. All caregivers and cannabis care centers potentially operating under the proposed law would have to function as a nonprofit. A second medical marijuana initiative has also qualified for the November ballot that would allow for-profit dispensaries, but local advocates worry that both initiatives on the ballot will doom medical marijuana in Arkansas altogether. 

North Dakota

North Dakota last attempted a medical marijuana initiative in 2012, but petition efforts were invalidated when it was discovered that some University of North Dakota football players, paid to circulate the petition, forged signatures. But advocates are back this year with the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. The measure would create a system to treat debilitating conditions and all aspects of the system would be overseen by the Department of Health and operate as nonprofit.


Florida last voted on medical marijuana in 2014 when it narrowly missed the mark, but it’s back this election cycle wiser from its previous defeat. The initiative is written for the treatment of specific diseases like cancer, epilepsy, and Crohn’s Disease, and it also would allow for doctor discretion to recommend medical marijuana for a patient with an unapproved condition. This time around the initiative makes it clear “that doctors would not be immune from malpractice claims for negligent prescribing of marijuana” and will put a cap on the number of patients a caregiver can treat.

The United States is already at the halfway mark for marijuana legalization with 25 medical states, four of which have adult-use markets. Regardless of the outcomes on the 2016 ballots, the number 25 isn’t likely to go backwards. Here lies the moment of reckoning for lawmakers to reexamine both local and federal drug policies, because legal cannabis is here to stay.




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