WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked President Barack Obama’s administration for its views on a lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado over its voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana use by adults.
The Obama administration has allowed states to experiment with marijuana legalization even though the drug remains illegal under federal law.
The high court’s action delays its decision on whether the nine justices will hear the case. There is no deadline for the U.S. Justice Department to respond to the court’s request.
In their challenge to Colorado’s law, Nebraska and Oklahoma said marijuana is being smuggled across their borders and that drugs threaten the health and safety of children.
Nebraska and Oklahoma noted that federal law still prohibits marijuana, arguing that Colorado has created “a dangerous gap” in the federal drug control system.
Colorado stands by its law and said the Supreme Court was not the correct place to resolve the case. Oklahoma and Nebraska’s lawsuit was filed under the court’s rarely used “original jurisdiction” in which the justices hear disputes between states that are not first reviewed by lower courts.
Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012. Washington state also voted the same year to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults, while Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia followed suit last fall.
Is Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper starting to come around on the issue of legal marijuana? After a quick stroll through our archives and a viewing of a recent Fox Business interview with the Democrat (above) where he says of marijuana, “it’s not as vexing as we thought it was going to be,” it certainly seems like it.
A headline from Dec. 2013: “Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Hancock won’t attend pot retail sales.” From Feb. 2014: “Gov. Hickenlooper urges caution for fellow governors when it comes to legalization.” From Oct. 2014: “Hickenlooper: Colorado voters ‘reckless’ about legal weed.” From Dec. 2014: “Colo. Gov. Hickenlooper would have reversed pot legalization if he could.” From Jan. 2015: “Gov. Hickenlooper optimistic about legal weed on ‘60 Minutes’.” Also from Jan. 2015: “Gov. Hickenlooper makes pot banking priority in State of the State speech.”
And now this headline — “Colorado Gov.: Pot is ‘not as vexing as we thought it was going to be’ (video)” — tied to “Opening Bell” host Maria Bartiromo’s interview with Hickenlooper at the Milken Institute Global Conference, which runs through today.
Bartiromo began the interview by congratulating Hickenlooper on Colorado’s unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, “way below the national average,” she said. Later on, around the 3:50 mark, she asked the governor about marijuana — and he started his answer by acknowledging the number of millenials moving to Colorado, something he’d already addressed in the interview.
“It’s all those young people coming, and they look at marijuana and say, ‘Hey we can drink whiskey, why can’t we have a legalized system with marijuana?’ If you look back it’s turned out to not be as vexing as some of the people like myself — I opposed the original vote, didn’t think it was a good idea. Now the voters spoke so we’re trying to make it work, and I think we are.
“Again, it’s not as vexing as we thought it was going to be, but at the same time it hasn’t been the economic boon that some promoters thought it would be. I think we are slowly, through hard work, building a regulatory system, making sure we keep it out of the hands of kids, making sure we keep our streets and roads safe, making sure we kill that illegal black market — drug dealers don’t care who they sell to. And we’re getting there.”
Bartiromo responded to the governor with a measured observation and perhaps some hyperbole about her own network’s pot coverage: “I think you’re right. When we did a special a couple years ago on marijuana, it was the single-best, most-watched program ever on cable, and we were all like, ‘Wow, what does this say about America?’ America smokes pot.”
Hickenlooper answered by noting that cannabis use hasn’t spiked in Colorado.
(JTA) — Seth Wong’s place of work is heavily cluttered, with shelves loaded with moldy bagels, stale cake and fermenting carrots. There’s a not-so-faint smell of urine in the air.
But if all goes according to plan for Wong and his new business partner, JJ Slatkin, their new office soon will have something else in abundance: marijuana.
The two Jewish 30-somethings are launching a new company that will offer contaminant testing and potency analysis for cannabis, which Colorado legalized in 2014.
Wong’s current place of work is no frat house; he is president of a 70-year-old company called Industrial Laboratories, which does food and drug analysis. The aging cakes and other foods are being analyzed for shelf life and examined for pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, the clutter includes $500,000 machines that deconstruct molecules to ensure the nutritional claims on food product labels are accurate, and the stench of piss comes from racehorse urine being tested for banned substances. The lab also drug screens the urine of livestock, carrier pigeons, greyhounds and Iditarod racing dogs.
“Normally, our lab smells like a stockyard,” Wong told JTA during a recent tour of the facility in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, just west of Denver.
When it comes to their new company, TEQ Analytical Laboratories, Wong and Slatkin are hoping two elements will give them a leg up over the competition: Wong’s strong reputation for quality microbiological testing and their personal connections with many of the state’s leading marijuana producers — many of whom happen to be Jews.
“Many of the original real trailblazers and entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry are Jewish, and there are a handful of major operations within Colorado that have Jewish ownership,” said Slatkin, who has a background in finance. “Our Jewish community relationships have definitely been important.”
There’s Ean Seeb, chairman of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a Jewish federation leader who has his own Jewish events company. There’s Joseph Max Cohen, who started the Clinic Medical Marijuana Center in 2009 and now has multiple facilities in the Denver area. Many of the administrators at the Pink House Blooms chain of marijuana dispensaries are Jewish. So is Richard Greenberg, executive vice president of Global Cannabis Ventures and an investor in an Israeli company focused on improving marijuana breeding methods.
Slatkin and Wong are well-connected in this world, largely through their Jewish associations. They count Seeb as a good friend. They often run into marijuana entrepreneurs at events sponsored by the local Jewish federation, where Wong and Slatkin are young leaders. (Wong met his fiancee on a Jewish federation retreat.) The business partners are also Wexner Heritage fellows, a program that supports young Jewish volunteer leaders.
Wong, 34, has an unusual Jewish background. His mother is from a Jewish family in Philadelphia and his father is from a Protestant Chinese family. Wong’s grandfather came over from China in the 1920s at the age of 9 as a “paper son” – with fake identity papers. Though his father and brothers already were in the United States, they were running bars and brothels during Prohibition and weren’t much help, and Wong’s father was adopted by a Jewish family.
He never became Jewish, but four decades later his son – Wong’s father – brought home a Jewish wife. Wong himself grew up in Boulder, going to Hebrew school and Jewish youth groups, yet relishing his family’s famed Chinese roast pork recipe. When he turned 13, Wong asked his father – who owns Industrial Laboratories, which Wong now runs – to convert to Judaism so he could stand alongside Wong on the bimah platform at his bar mitzvah. He obliged.
Slatkin, 32, comes from a long line of Denver Jews. Five generations ago, his ancestors fled pogroms in Russian to move to a Jewish agricultural settlement in Cotopaxi, Colorado, that flourished briefly in the 1880s. After the settlement failed, they migrated to Denver and in 1887 founded an Orthodox synagogue on Denver’s west side, Congregation Zera Abraham, and had a hand in founding several others.
A Jewish day school graduate, Slatkin is a leader in his minyan at the Hebrew Educational Alliance, a Conservative synagogue in Denver, and he maintains a weekly Torah study date with an Orthodox rabbi in town. He and Wong met through Jewish channels.
DENVER — With smiles, selfies and a few nervous chuckles, a group of Nevada legislators and policymakers got a first-hand look at Colorado’s fast-growing legal marijuana industry this weekend, coming face-to-face with thousands of green growing plants.
The small group is part of Nevada’s efforts to understand what legalization could mean. The Silver State has permitted medical marijuana, and now there’s talk voters might be asked to legalize recreational pot next year.
The group met its Colorado counterparts, and toured several marijuana stores, including the high-tech, 40,000-square-foot Medicine Man in Denver, one of the state’s largest.
A company tour guide showed the group Medicine Man’s growing and processing operations as the smell of marijuana hung heavy in the air and workers prepared young plants for potting. The guide also showed off a bucket of dried marijuana containing several pounds of processed pot, which sells in Colorado for about $2,500 a pound. On the black market, Colorado’s high-potency pot can fetch $6,000, experts say.
Will Big Tobacco become Big Marijuana?
Along with Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, although all went about it slightly differently and on different timeframes. Colorado is unique because it has hundreds of functioning stores and grow operations, all overseen by state regulators.
“Last time I was in one of these, we were doing a bust,” joked Ron Dreher, a former narcotics and homicide detective who now works for the Peace Officers Research Association of Nevada.
“Life changes, huh?” state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, a Las Vegas Democrat, shot back with a laugh as the two men took pictures of the plants.
Dreher said he’s concerned that legalized marijuana would serve as a gateway drug and about the impact of potentially increased access for kids. He also pointed out that while Nevada was the first state to legalize both gambling and prostitution, “we’re on the back burner with marijuana.”
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and state lawmakers are cautious about running afoul of the Justice Department. Voters, on the other hand, have forged ahead.
Former university president turns to selling marijuana
Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat who represents an area near Boulder, urged Nevadans to think carefully but be prepared to act quickly. Colorado’s voters didn’t just legalize marijuana but also enshrined that right in the state constitution. While that makes it hard to abolish, it also makes the regulations hard to alter, Singer said. He said lawmakers ought to consider legalizing marijuana themselves, instead of falling behind a growing wave of public sentiment that pot should be treated like alcohol.
“The No. 1 thing I tell people that tax revenues for are up and the sky isn’t falling. The naysayers were wrong,” Singer said.
In February a similar delegation from Vermont conducted a fact-finding mission. Vermont is widely expected to become one of the next states to legalize, perhaps becoming the first state on the East Coast to take the plunge. A study commissioned by the Green Mountain State concluded taxes on legal pot sales could generate between $20 million and $75 million annually in Vermont. Colorado collected about $70 million in marijuana taxes and fees last year, the first year of legalization.
Mary Alice McKenzie, executive director of The Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, Vt., spent three days in Denver with the Vermont delegation. It wasn’t enough, she said.
The first thing I notice about doing yoga stoned is my pulse. That otherwise inconspicuous sign of life is suddenly very much present, from my forehead to my pelvis, and the latter makes me want to giggle. I think it’s okay to giggle, and so I do. Here inside this garage-turned-yoga studio in central Denver, everyone around me is making noises—giggles and more—upon taking her turn hitting the communal vape that’s being passed around.
After another healthy inhale of vaporized weed, we flow through our vinyasa, and I start to take note of everything in the room: the intricate weave of the fishtail braid of the girl sitting behind me, the beads of sweat dripping down my spine, the goofy facial expression the woman to my right is making, likely the result of the drug’s effect tickling her eyelids and mouth corners. Eventually, my thoughts turn from fleeting to fixated, and by the time we hit happy baby pose, my back is melting into the mat and I’m taking in heavy, delicious breaths.
Shannon Donnelly, a 26-year-old pot entrepreneur and the class’s organizer, later tells me the reason I’m able to breathe so deeply is because of the relaxing indica strain we’re smoking. Its name is Flo and it’s a bronchial dilator, believed to help expand the lungs to facilitate intense breathing. Pair this strain with vaping, the preferred method of indulging for the health conscious, and you’ve got the ideal yoga practice.
“There’s this common misconception that smoking cannabis makes you slow and lazy, but it’s not true—there are some strains that are actually great for exercising,” Donnelly tells the group of a dozen women who are attending her marijuana yoga class one Sunday afternoon in March. “Vaping is much better than smoking. There’s no carbon dioxide, tar, heat, or carcinogens getting into your lungs. Vaping is a great alternative for asthmatics too, because it’s not harsh.”
Donnelly works for several local dispensaries in Colorado, but spends weekends running her startup, Healthy Honeys, which aims to promote a wellness-centric marijuana lifestyle. Healthy Honeys puts on yoga and burlesque classes, inviting participants to join in on group seshes beforehand and vaporizer demonstrations afterward.
Once our yoga class winds down, we pass around different vapes—the iPuff, the Pax, the Ripstic. The one that catches the most attention, however, is the Volcano, a gadget that sells for some $540 and releases vapor into a detachable plastic bag. At first glance, I think we might be doing whippets, but I soon realize that taking a pull of vapor from the Volcano has smooth and long-lasting results; it’s even been the subject of a medical study on the health benefits of vaping.
“These vapes can help you mellow yourself out,” proclaims Donnelly. “They make you feel healthier when you smoke. In the last few years, my voice has gotten deeper because I smoke so much cannabis, but now that I vape, I don’t feel bogged down. There’s not as much gunk in my chest.”
When Donnelly, or pretty much anyone else out here in Colorado, talks about marijuana, she doesn’t call it weed, pot, or bud: The preferred term is cannabis. Ever since recreational use was proclaimed legal two and a half years ago, the industry has been rebranding itself, wiggling away from its counterculture roots and in turn aligning with the burgeoning wellness movement.
Since cannabis companies officially opened their doors last January, high-end businesses have been popping up all over the state that challenge the idea that weed is just a lowbrow commodity. The phrase “classing up the joint” is ubiquitous in Colorado.
In Denver, the epicenter of this thriving industry, the dispensaries are chic, the grow houses specialize in organic strains, and the edibles are artisanal (and sometimes even gluten-free). There’s artful glass-blown paraphernalia, spa treatments that utilize THC, and cannabis beauty products too. The ubiquitous green leaf isn’t just a drug here, it’s a lifestyle.
On November 6, 2012 Colorado voters approved controversial and groundbreaking legislation making the rocky mountain state – fittingly home to the “Mile High City” of Denver – the first in the nation to allow adults over the age of 21 to use and grow small amounts of marijuana at home for both medical and recreational purposes. The first recreational marijuana stores, known as dispensaries, officially opened on January 1, 2014, marking what supporters call a long overdue end to “marijuana prohibition.”
In its first year alone, the industry proved lucrative with $700 million of medical and recreational marijuana sold, totaling 75 tons of cannabis flower and 50 million units of pot edibles, according to the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s annual report. The upward trend has continued in year two, with Colorado Department of Revenue data showing an estimated $36.4 million of recreational marijuana sold in January of this year alone, a record compared to the $14.69 million sold in the same month in 2014.
Although exorbitant start-up costs, intensive government regulation and ongoing stigma remain barriers to entry, industry observers say some African Americans are managing to cash in on the high profits that abound.
The stereotypical marijuana user — the “stoner” — hasn’t adequately represented the actual people who responsibly enjoy marijuana for some time. But the stoner myth seems more antiquated than ever as more states lift prohibitions on marijuana use.
To combat these stoner myths of the past, Drug Policy Alliance has put together a set of stereotype-shattering stock photos depicting modern, real-life marijuana users from all walks of life.
Shot in March in Boulder, Colorado — where recreational marijuana is legal — the DPA photos feature adult marijuana users in their 30s all the way up to their 60s, doing everyday activities while also consuming marijuana in a variety of ways, from joints to vaporizers to pens. (Scroll down to see some of the photos.)
“Marijuana is being covered by the media in an increasingly sophisticated and nuanced way now that the laws are changing and more people are ‘out’ as marijuana users,” said Sharda Sekaran, managing director of communications for DPA. “We all know that many marijuana smokers look more like your Aunt Bettie or your accountant than “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski,” but most images in the public sphere still do not reflect this.”
As marijuana’s annual holiday of 4/20 approaches this year, recreational weed is now legal in four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska — as well as the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana is also legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C.
Legalizing the drug has created a billion-dollar industry, and it is poised to grow even larger as at least 10 states are considering recreational legalization by 2016. One recent study forecast that by 2019, all of the state-legal marijuana markets combined will make for a potential overall market worth almost $11 billion annually.
Despite the reforms when it comes to marijuana policy, the nation has continued the war on drugs. There is approximately one marijuana arrest every 51 seconds in the U.S., according to the Marijuana Policy Project. And while marijuana arrests are down overall, nearly 700,000 people were arrested for marijuana crimes in 2013 — about half of all drug arrests in the nation. And blacks and Latinos are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, despite similar rates of use.
The United States is home to just 5 percent of the world’s population, but a full 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Harsh and lengthy sentences for nonviolent drug possession or distribution crimes have helped bolster that figure. In 1980, there were roughly 40,000 drug offenders in U.S. prisons, according to research from the Sentencing Project, a prison sentencing reform group. By 2011, that number had ballooned to more than 500,000, though most of these prisoners were not high-level operators and did not have prior criminal records.
But attitudes are changing rapidly on marijuana policy in the U.S. Recent polling shows that a majority of Americans across party lines continue to support legalization nationally.
In states that have ended prohibition of the plant, criminal charges have plummeted.
More federal legislation aimed at rolling back the war on drugs continues to be introduced, signaling there may be even bigger changes up ahead.
Read more about “weed day” here, and check out our Weedvent calendar as we count down the days to 4/20.
In the meantime, here’s what marijuana legalization looks like:
(CNN)The Coxes can rest more comfortably living in Georgia now that their 5-year-old daughter can get the marijuana extract she needs.
“This means the world to us,” said Haleigh Cox’s mother, Janea Cox.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill Thursday that will legalize low-THC cannabis oil for certain “medication-resistant epilepsies,” while creating an infrastructure, registration process and research program for the drug. (THC is the primary psychoactive substance in marijuana.)
The bill is dubbed Haleigh’s Hope Act.
Haleigh, who has been the face of the bill, was having hundreds of seizures a day and the five potent drugs meant to control them weren’t making life better for the little girl.
As if anyone needed another reason to dislike New Jersey, the state’s governor, Chris Christie, a likely Republican presidential candidate, just said if he were president he’d crack down on legalized marijuana. On the Hugh Hewitt Show, Christie was asked if he’d enforce the drug laws in Colorado and Washington, which Hewitt said were “flaunting federal law by allowing people to sell dope legally.” Christie said he’d “crack down and not permit it.” Hewitt was ready to move on but Christie had more to say:
HH: All right, next…
CC: Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country. And we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.
Christie, a former prosecutor, may not exactly be about enforcing all the laws when it comes to marijuana, his rhetoric on Hewitt’s show notwithstanding. The legislation legalizing medical marijuana went into effect in 2010, but the governor has been notoriously slow about implementing the law. He worries about medical marijuana dispensaries’ “profit motive”. The first one didn’t open until 2012. New Jersey being New Jersey, the state’s medical marijuana regulations are some of the largest in the country.
When he was first elected, Christie was hailed by Republicans looking for a post-2008 hero as the kind of Republican that can win in blue states like New Jersey. His two terms have showed what that looks like—a candidate with the worst nanny state tendencies of both major parties.
Colorado sold a record amount of recreational marijuana in February 2015, according to new data released by the state on Friday.
Around $39.2 million of recreational cannabis was sold in state shops in February, according to calculations based on data provided by the Colorado Department of Revenue. The previous monthly record for recreational sales was January 2015′s $36.4 million.
Much of that growth comes from additional shops opening up in still-new recreational cities, including Aurora, Colorado’s third most populous city that only started selling retail pot last October, experts say.
“We just opened the ninth store in Aurora,” said Meg Collins, vice president of business development for Good Chemistry, which operates a shop in central Denver and its brand-new flagship store in Aurora (in addition to being part-owners of Denver shop Wellspring). “The activity in Aurora has helped boost those sales and tax numbers, and people are also getting more comfortable with purchasing legally, knowing that it’s available and becoming a bit more mainstream, and that’s helping sales, too.
“And anything that helps legal sales helps erode the black market.”
Colorado’s total medical marijuana sales in February 2015 added up to about $29.3 million, up more than $1 million from the previous month. The record for medical marijuana sales in Colorado’s recreational era, which started Jan. 1, 2014, came in February 2014 when $36 million in medical pot was sold.
Another important indicator in Colorado’s complex pot taxes is the amount dedicated for public schools, and that monthly total was more than $2 million for the second consecutive month in February. In January, the excise tax on wholesale marijuana transfers raised more than $2.3 million for schools, and in February it totaled $2.1 million.
The monthly excise taxes earmarked for school construction capital never topped $2 million in 2014, the first year of recreational pot sales in Colorado.
In 2014, Colorado sold nearly $700 million of pot — $385.9 million for medical marijuana and $313.2 million for recreational cannabis. Projections based on the first two months of 2015′s recreational and medical numbers suggest that Colorado will sell more marijuana, and collect more in pot-related taxes, in 2015 than the state did in 2014.