The Obama administration just issued new guidelines to folks in the weed business; perhaps he should issue some guidelines to a few other businesses while he’s at it….
CNN reporter Randi Kaye does the best job showing America what retail weed stores will look like that we’ve seen on Higher Ground. She also gets a hilarious contact high from being “hotboxed”in a Cannabis Tourbus.
The Hershey Co. has filed a trademark suit against an edible marijuana company for selling weed-infused snacks with packaging that mimics some of Hershey’s signature candies.
In the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Denver, Hershey claims that the Colorado-based medical marijuana manufacturer Tincture Belle is selling products that look suspiciously like its Reese’s, Heath, Almond Joy and York Peppermint Pattie brands.
Not only are the products packaged in similar colors as the Hershey originals, the candy-making giant contends, their names are also reminiscent of their analogs: Hashees, Hasheath, Ganja Joy and Dabby Patty.
Hershey says that the packaging is not only a clear trademark violation, but also a safety risk to consumers — especially children — “who may not distinguish between Hershey’s candy products and defendants’ cannabis- and/or tetrahydrocannabinol-based products.”
Although recreational and medicinal marijuana sales are legal in Colorado, the burgeoning edible pot industry has raised some safety concerns.
In April, a Denver teen plunged off a balcony after eating six times the recommended amount of a marijuana brownie. And another man was accused of killing his wife in a hallucinatory episode after eating marijuana candy and rolling a joint, according to CBS News.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s own encounter with a caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar prompted her to argue in her column for greater regulation of the edibles industry.
According to Tincture Belle, their pot products are gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, GMO-free and peanut-free — although they do come with a hint of imitation.
The issue of stoned driving is a real one, and thank goodness a few serious journalists have taken it upon themselves to investigate the subject. (In this case, our own local newsteam at KIRO 7). We stole their footage, and added our own take on the subject. Could you pass the Stoned Driving Test?
The full Stoned Driving Test video is here: http://www.kirotv.com/videos/news/stoned-drivers-hit-test-course/vqPqJ/?__federated=1
Americans could learn from Canada, as the New York Times explains in When Cannabis Goes Corporate. Canada’s free-for-all approach prompted complaints from police and local governments, so Canada adopted a regulated system for growth and sales. Enter Tweed Marijuana, one of the companies licensed to grow medical marijuana in Canada.
The new rules allow prescription holders to buy from approved, large-scale, producers. More informal growing operations suffer. But the changes have spawned an industry of more legitimate producers with bigger business models. And that should mean more sales.
Canada expects to collect taxes on over $3.1 billion in annual sales. The figures stateside could be vastly better. In Washington State, where even recreational marijuana is now legal, the Liquor Control Board hired Prof. Mark Kleiman of UCLA to research the state’s marijuana market. He estimated Washington’s medical and illicit consumption generated approximately $1.2 billion in sales annually.
Medical marijuana neon sign at a dispensary on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Colorado too voted to legalize marijuana even for recreational use. Already, Colorado gets $2 million from marijuana taxes. And while there are rules in Colorado and Washington, both states seem well on their way to regulating and profiting from the industry. Medical use is far more prevalent, now numbering 20 legal medical marijuana states and D.C.
Yet in the Feds’ view, regardless of state legality, marijuana is a controlled substance and illegal under federal law. As more states have clashed with federal law, this mismatch has become more contentious. The Department of Justice issued a response suggesting that it will lay off the raids and prosecutions.
But the feds will lay off only if the states create “a tightly regulated market” with rules that address federal “enforcement priorities” such as preventing interstate smuggling, diversion to minors, and “adverse public health consequences.” Those phrases seem imbued with discretion. This memo to U.S. attorneys makes clear that the DOJ can still prosecute growers and sellers.
To be sure, this is much bigger than a tax problem. And yet the tax problems of the industry are huge and are thought to be one of the industry’s major impediments. Section 280E of the tax code denies even legal dispensaries tax deductions. The main culprit is Congress, not the IRS. The IRS has said it has no choice but to enforce the tax code passed by Congress.
How big is the industry’s problem? “The federal tax situation is the biggest threat to businesses and could push the entire industry underground,” the leading trade publication for the marijuana industry reported. One answer has been for dispensaries to deduct expenses from other businesses distinct from dispensing marijuana. If a dispensary sells marijuana and is in the separate business of care-giving, the care-giving expenses are deductible. If only 10% of the premises are used to dispense marijuana, most of the rent is deductible.
Another idea is for marijuana sellers to operate as nonprofit social welfare organizations. That way Section 280E shouldn’t apply. The industry needs to operate more like other businesses. Sometimes such matters involve structural questions. To avoid trouble with the IRS, some claim that dispensaries should be organized as cooperatives or collectives.
The Marijuana Tax Equity Act would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow it to be taxed. The bill would also impose an excise tax on cannabis sales and an annual occupational tax on workers in the growing field of legal marijuana.
(Courtesy of the Washington Post)
If there is one thing you can say about New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, it is that she knows her brand. Even when she has a bad high in Colorado and uses it as the peg for a column on the messy process of marijuana legalization, she does not lose sight of her Dowdisms. Dowd may have lost her mind via mis-dosage, but in writing about it, she stays on message by describing “my more mundane drugs of choice, chardonnay and mediocre-movies-on-demand,” blaming a girlish affinity for chocolate for her misfortune and confessing her stoned fascination with the green corduroy jeans she was wearing at the time.
But while it is easy to make fun of Dowd’s bad experience with edibles, when it comes to marijuana, there is a good point tangled up in her column. A majority of Americans may favor legalizing marijuana. But that does not mean that that everyone knows how to consume it in ways that are pleasurable and safe for them, or that avoid unpleasant side effects.
Most Americans learn to drink by a process of trial and error, conducted through well-established rituals and with social support. If marijuana is to be consumed in similar ways, a lot of new consumers will have to learn how to toke.
Take Dowd’s experience. She got much higher than she wanted to because she made the not-unreasonable assumption that a candy bar was a single serving, eating the whole thing in one go. “A medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices,” Dowd explains that she finds out later. “That recommendation hadn’t been on the label.”
It is one thing for experienced consumers to scoff at Dowd’s lack of knowledge. But she is not going to be alone, and asking for labeling or instructions is not unreasonable. Similarly, new marijuana consumers may look to analogous delivery mechanisms and social rituals when they are smoking joints for the first time, and expect that they ought to treat joints exactly like cigarettes
When new marijuana consumers venture beyond products that look similar to ones they already know, they will have to figure out the answers to a number of questions.
New drinkers may know intellectually that beer, wine and liquor have different amounts of alcohol by volume. But they still have to figure out what they are comfortable drinking, and then determine the amounts they can drink and the rates at which they can drink it. The difference between passing out from keg stands and enjoying High West bourbon neat is a matter of education and socialization.
Smokers and eaters of edibles will have to learn the same things with different strains of and delivery systems for pot. How many hits can they take or brownies can they eat, depending on the bud or the clarified butter in question? How full should they pack the bowl of a pipe or the oven of a vaporizer? If their tolerance is higher than a single square of Dowd’s chocolate bar, how many is optimal? What is the difference in dosage between a nice vibe at a party and hiding in a corner to avoid displaying your incoherence and anxiety?
Americans long ago decided that tee-totaling isn’t the only alternative to being a sot. If the country is to determine that marijuana ought to be legal for recreational as well as medical use, we will need to find a model for marijuana consumption that differs from the motivation-sapped stoner or the deadly violence sometimes committed under the influence.
We figured out a way to regulate alcohol rather than banning it. And we developed a vision for classy, controlled alcohol consumption, even if we occasionally tweak that model in response to dismaying social developments like binge drinking. For Maureen Dowd’s dignity, and the rest of our sakes, we should do the same for marijuana.
A proposed change to the nation’s rigid drug sentencing laws could save taxpayers billions, according to a new report by the United States Sentencing Commission, the agency that guides sentencing policy for the federal courts.
The report, released Tuesday, examines the impact of a reform that would shave an average of two years off the sentences of roughly half the people serving time in the federal prison system for drug crimes. Doing so would save the government 83,525 “bed years,” the report concludes. (A “bed year” is the bureaucratic term for the cost of keeping one person behind bars for one year.)
With about 100,000 federal prisoners doing time for drugs, at the cost of nearly $30,000 per prisoner a year, that comes out to more than $2.4 billion in total savings.
Recent remarks by Department of Justice officials suggest that they could use every cent. Prison costs make up a third of the department’s budget, and the department’s inspector general has warned that prison overcrowding poses an “increasingly critical threat” to the safety and security of prisoners and staff.
Last month, the seven-member Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to adopt a change to the sentencing guidelines that would reduce drug sentences by an average of about 11 months per prisoner. Unless Congress rejects the change, it will go into effect on Nov. 1. Tuesday’s report considers what would happen if the reform were applied to prisoners who are already behind bars. The commission says it will decide by July 18 whether to make the change retroactive.
Mary Price, an attorney with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group that opposes harsh sentencing laws, supports retroactivity “for so many reasons.”
“It would be a cruel irony to fix the problem of over-sentencing only to deny relief to the thousands who have suffered its consequences,” she said in a statement. “It will also make a real impact on the federal prison population, which hovers at nearly 40 percent above capacity and which siphons funds needed for crime prevention, detection and prosecution.”
To understand how the proposed reform would work, one needs to understand something of the history of America’s byzantine sentencing system. In 1986, at the crest of a national wave of concern about crack cocaine, the U.S. adopted a law that assigned specific sentencing levels and penalty ranges to a variety of drug crimes. For example, if someone is convicted of selling 15 grams of meth, that person is considered a “level 18” offender under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which imposes a recommended sentence for the crime, generally between 27 and 33 months in prison.
The new guidelines adopted by the Sentencing Commission would lower the standard sentencing levels by two points across the board. In this example, a person convicted of selling 15 grams of meth would then be rated a “level 16” offender, resulting in between 21 and 27 months behind bars.
Of the 100,888 people currently in federal prison for drug convictions, only about half would be eligible for a sentence reduction under the reform, should it be applied retroactively. Many of the ineligible prisoners were sentenced under separate mandatory minimum statutes that require they spend a fixed amount of time in prison.
The reform is just one measure that could allow the Department of Justice to trim its bloated prison budget. Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, and the Justice Department recently announced a huge expansion of its clemency process, which could lead to hundreds of drug prisoners going free before their sentences are up.