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Trump administration ends Obama cannabis policy (Newsletter: Jan. 5, 2018)

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VT House approves legalization bill; OK medical cannabis vote date set; Lawmakers push back on Sessions

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era Cole memo that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference.

The move represents a clear violation of President Trump’s repeated campaign promises to respect state cannabis laws.

A large number of members of Congress and state officials across party lines pushed back against the decision.

Vermont’s House of Representatives approved a marijuana legalization bill, setting up a final Senate vote next week.

/ FEDERAL

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, asked about the federal marijuana move, said, “The president believes in enforcing federal law…that is regardless of what the topic is, whether it’s marijuana or it’s immigration.”

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson wasn’t willing to predict whether the marijuana change would lead to more prosecutions. The official also said there are no current plans to begin sending threat letters to state-legal cannabis businesses. However, an official also wouldn’t rule out medical cannabis prosecutions.

Colorado’s U.S. attorney suggested that the disappearance of the Cole memo wouldn’t change his marijuana enforcement strategy.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio implied that the Sessions move wouldn’t change much.

Vermont’s U.S. attorney also indicated she’s not about to launch a cannabis crackdown.

The same goes for the Western District of Washington’s U.S. attorney.

Oregon’s U.S. attorney suggested he would continue to use Cole memo priorities in determining enforcement actions.

Alaska’s U.S. attorney said he will “continue to use the long-established principles of federal prosecution to determine what cases to charge.”T

he U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia said the office will “utilize long-established principles of prosecutorial discretion in pursuing cases.”

Pennsylvania’s U.S. attorney said his office will continue going after “criminal organizations which traffic in all illegal controlled substances, including marijuana.”

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas said he will “continue to exercise our prosecutorial discretion and evaluate criminal cases on an individual basis.”

Rhode Island’s U.S. attorney said he would “evaluate each matter based upon its specific facts, and then rely upon the well-established principals that govern all federal prosecutions when deciding which cases to pursue.”

The Massachusetts U.S attorney said his office would “prosecute bulk cultivation and trafficking cases, and those who use the federal banking system illegally.”

The U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of California said the office will “evaluate violations of those laws in accordance with our district’s federal law enforcement priorities and resources.”

Former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration head Chuck Rosenberg suggested the removal of the Cole memo wouldn’t change much.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is responding to the federal marijuana change by pushing for even broader state protections in federal spending legislation than just the existing medical cannabis rider.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) seems to want to extend budget protections to cover state recreational laws as well.

Congressman Earl Blumenaeur (D-OR) congratulated Vermont on its marijuana legalization vote.

The U.S. Senate bill to respect state medical cannabis laws got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to eight.

/ STATES

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) placed a medical cannabis measure on the state’s June 26 primary election ballot.

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said the state won’t amend its marijuana laws in response to federal enforcement policy changes.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced that regulators have approved that state’s first medical cannabis dispensary to begin serving patients.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) says he wants the federal government to distinguish between medical and recreational marijuana.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said the state will move ahead with legal marijuana sales.

California’s top marijuana regulator and attorney general said the state will move ahead with legalization. And an assemblyman will file legislation to prevent state and local police from assisting federal agents in any cannabis crackdowns.

Massachusetts regulators are moving ahead with marijuana legalization implementation.

Ohio regulators said they would continue implementing the medical cannabis program despite federal changes.

Minnesota regulators said their medical cannabis program would continue as well.

The chair of Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board, who is a police chief, resigned in response to the federal move.

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidates JB Pritzker and Daniel Biss slammed the federal marijuana change.

Louisiana’s attorney general said he supports the move to scale back state marijuana protections.

Indiana’s attorney general also seemed pleased with the change.

New Jersey’s Senate president slammed the federal cannabis move.

A Maine legislative committee hearing on marijuana legalization implementation scheduled for Friday has been canceled.

/ LOCAL

Seattle, Washington Mayor Jenny Durkan (D), a former U.S. attorney, said local police will not assist federal agents in any marijuana crackdowns.

Denver, Colorado Mayor Michael Hancock (D) expressed “severe disappointment” about federal marijuana changes.

The Los Angeles, California City Council president said the city would move ahead with legal marijuana sales.

San Francisco, California’s marijuana permitting will proceed as well.

/ INTERNATIONAL

New Canadian data shows an increasing number of patients and doctors participating in the country’s medical cannabis program.

/ ADVOCACY

The Fraternal Order of Police applauded the Department of Justice’s move to rescind state marijuana law protections.

The National Sheriffs’ Association is also happy.

Prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana could barely contain itself over the federal news.

Freedom Partners, an advocacy group funded by the Koch Brothers, slammed the federal cannabis change.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study found that “current blunt smokers had 1.4 times the odds of purchasing cannabis relative to the cannabis users who had never smoked a blunt” and  “current blunt smokers had greater odds of purchasing cannabis frequently and making the purchases in outdoor settings,” suggesting  that “current blunt smokers compared to other cannabis users are at greater risk of the dangers associated with illegal drug transactions.”

/ OPINION & ANALYSIS

Some Democratic analysts think that the party stands to benefit politically from the Trump administration’s anti-marijuana move.

/ BUSINESS

Marijuana stocks slid following news that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was rescinding guidance on state cannabis laws.

Monsanto tweeted to shoot down rumors it is working on GMO marijuana.

/ CULTURE     

Actor George Takei tweeted, “AG Sessions’s move to override the will of local voters and legislatures when it comes to marijuana laws is just the latest example of conservatives’ using federal power to impose red state values on the whole country. So much for that whole smaller government thing, I guess, eh?”

Actor Richard Schiff tweeted, “The war on drugs was a monumental mistake on so many levels. Militarizing gangs and police forces; mass incarceration; crowning kingpins of trafficking in Mexico, Columbia et al; endangering and handcuffing law enforcement and costing taxpayers over a trillion dollars.”

Late night TV hosts bashed Sessions’s marijuana move.

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Cannabis part of deal to end gov’t shutdown? (Newsletter: Jan. 22, 2018)

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Poll: marijuana safer than sugar; Industry campaign funding for GOP; Roger Stone says Trump could lose reelection over marijuana

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

As a federal shutdown went into effect,  U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) filed two far-reaching marijuana amendments he wants attached to legislation to re-open and fund the government.

A poll found that Americans think marijuana is safer than alcohol, tobacco or sugar, and that 60% support legalization.

/ FEDERAL

A USA Today analysis found that marijuana industry and advocacy federal campaign contributions heavily shifted toward Republican candidates for this election cycle.

Taylor Weyeneth, the 24-year-old former Trump campaign worker who suddenly ascended a a post at the top of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was previously fired from a law firm because he “just didn’t show” up for work.

Members of Congress told Rolling Stone that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s anti-marijuana move may backfire and spur efforts to change federal laws.

  • Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): “It’s a big plus for our efforts that the federal government is now aware that our constituents have been alerted. We can be confident we can win this fight, because this is a freedom issue.”
  • U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): “I’m hopeful that this action is going to have a powerful reaction. This is a movement that’s going to happen, and I’m glad to see I’ve got partners on the Republican side of the aisle that are very animated on this issue.”

Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweeted, “California’s marijuana legalization will also restore the voting rights for up to one million people and make it easier for them to apply for licenses, apartments, and jobs. This is smart criminal justice policy that we need nationwide.”

The U.S. House bill to deschedule marijuana and withhold funding from states with racially discriminatory cannabis enforcement got  five new cosponsors, bringing the total to 23.

The U.S. House bill to deschedule marijuana got three new cosponsors, bringing the total to 28.

The U.S. House bill to increase marijuana businesses’ access to banks got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to 67.

The U.S. House bill to remove the 280E tax penalty on marijuana businesses got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to 41.

The U.S. House bill to respect state marijuana laws got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to four.

The U.S. House CBD medical cannabis bill got seven new cosponsors, bringing the total to 30.

The U.S. Senate bill to protect water rights for hemp growers got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to six.

California Democratic congressional candidate Andrew Janz, a former prosecutor, said he supports legalizing and rescheduling marijuana.

/ STATES

There’s still no word on whether Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has signed marijuana legalization into law as promised. Monday is the deadline for him to act. Meanwhile, the lieutenant governor will host a town hall meeting on marijuana law reform on Monday evening.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) says he doesn’t support pending medical cannabis legislation.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) appointed another police chief to the Marijuana Control Board.

Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tina Liebling, currently a state representative, supports legalizing marijuana.

Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidates oppose legalizing marijuana.

Colorado Democratic attorney general candidate Michael Dougherty said he would defend the marijuana industry from federal attacks.

A Maine legislative committee voted to extend a moratorium on legal marijuana sales until mid-April.

Virginia’s Senate majority leader filed a bill to replace jail time for first-time marijuana possession with a fine. The bill stops short of removing cannabis criminalization, maintaining it as a misdemeanor.

Massachusetts lawmakers filed a bill to prohibit public employees from assisting federal actions against state-legal marijuana activity.

Hawaii senators introduced a bill claiming that “federal scheduling of cannabis as a controlled substance does not apply to the medical use of cannabis in Hawaii because the medical use of cannabis in Hawaii is currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

A Utah representative filed a bill to allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis. Meanwhile, activists say they have collected 95,000 signatures toward qualifying a broader medical marijuana ballot initiative.

California’s Cannabis Advisory Committee will examine taxes that some growers and retailers say are too high.

Iowa representatives filed a resolution calling on the federal government to reschedule marijuana.

Pennsylvania senators filed a resolution calling on Congress to “amend the Gun Control Act of 1968 to protect the constitutional rights of medical cannabis users.”

Florida regulators issued a warning about “medical marijuana scams.”

Oregon regulators will consider new marijuana rules on Thursday.

Nearly half of unsuccessful Ohio medical cannabis cultivation license applicants plan to appeal their denials.

/ LOCAL

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said he is skeptical about marijuana legalization but it willing to study it. He also said that the 17,000 cannabis arrests in the city over the past year is “a normal level in the sense of what we were trying to achieve.”

The East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana council will vote on a proposal to avoid low-level marijuana arrests on Wednesday.

A Prospect, Kentucky assistant police chief suggested that cops should shoot African-American teenagers for smoking marijuana.

/ INTERNATIONAL

Thailand’s Narcotics Suppression Bureau is endorsing a plan to allow cultivation of marijuana for research.

France’s minister of economy and finance said he opposes decriminalizing marijuana.

/ ADVOCACY

Trump ally Roger Stone said the president will lose reelection if his administration launches a marijuana crackdown.

The Drug Policy Alliance will release a report tracking the results of marijuana legalization on Tuesday.

Marijuana Policy Project staffer Heather Fazio, who focuses on Texas legislation, is leaving the organization to join MPP founder and former executive director Rob Kampia’s new Marijuana Leadership Campaign.

The Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police is opposing pending marijuana law reform legislation.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A review concluded that “cannabidiol has been well-tolerated in pediatric patients and may be an effective treatment for medically intractable epilepsy.”

/ OPINION & ANALYSIS

A poll found that West Virginia likely votes support medical cannabis, 67%-30%, but oppose legalizing marijuana, 34%-62%.

The Burlington Free Press editorial board is pushing Vermont lawmakers to tax and regulate marijuana sales.

The Star-Ledger editorial board wants New Jersey to legalize marijuana.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board is calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to participate in medical cannabis research.

/ BUSINESS

Arizona medical cannabis sales rose considerably in 2017.

/ CULTURE     

Check out this editorial cartoon about U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s anti-marijuana moves.

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Trump admin considers gutting cannabis banking protections (Newsletter: Jan. 19, 2018)

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Shutdown jeopardizes medical marijuana protections; DEA loosens cannabis research restrictions; RI gov backs big MMj expansion; Drug czar budget cut?

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

A top U.S. Treasury Department official testified in a Senate hearing  that the Trump administration is considering rescinding an Obama-era memo on bank access for marijuana businesses. In a related development, a bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators sent a letter asking that the cannabis banking protections be continued.

A possible government shutdown beginning Friday at midnight, and its resulting lapse of state medical cannabis protections, would put patients and providers at risk of federal prosecution. Short-term extension legislation was approved by the House on Thursday, but Senate passage is in serious jeopardy.

/ FEDERAL

President Trump is again considering severely slashing the budget for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is slightly streamlining the rigorous approval process to research Schedule I drugs such as marijuana by applications to be submitted online instead of by mail.

President Trump tweeted, “We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”

Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and seven cosponsors introduced a House companion to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) medical cannabis research bill.

A bipartisan group of California U.S. House members are pressuring U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to do more to push back on federal anti-marijuana moves.

Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) tweeted, “The Attorney General’s witch hunt against legally-operating, state-regulated #marijuana businesses in states like #Florida favors drug dealers and cartels operating ILLEGALLY and hurts LEGAL small business owners’ ability to compete.”

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) issued press releases about their signing an amicus brief challenging the Drug Enforcement Administration’s position on CBD.

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) tweeted, “The war on drugs unjustly targeted communities of color—I’m proud to be part of efforts to reverse its discriminatory legacy and empower marginalized communities.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) tweeted, “It’s time to end the federal prohibition and LEGALIZE (regulate) MARIJUANA. Period. Full Stop.”

The U.S. House bill to prevent federal agencies from punishing people complying with state marijuana laws got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to five.

The U.S. House bill to increase marijuana businesses’ access to banks for two new cosponsors, bringing the total to 66.

The U.S. House comprehensive medical cannabis bill got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to 26.

The U.S. House bill to protect state marijuana laws from federal interference got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to three.

Kentucky Democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath called for rescheduling marijuana.

/ STATES

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) said he will sign marijuana legalization legislation before Monday’s deadline but will do so in private instead of holding a bill signing ceremony.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) proposed significantly expanding the number of medical cannabis dispensaries, granting reciprocity to Massachusetts and Connecticut patients and adding acute pain as a qualifying condition. Republican House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, who is running for governor, criticized the plan.

Illinois lawmakers will hold a marijuana legalization hearing on Monday. Separately, every Democratic candidate for attorney general supports legalizing cannabis.

Massachusetts regulators have reached out to the state’s U.S. attorney following his concerning comments on marijuana enforcement. Meanwhile, regulators are holding a series of public meetings around the state next month.

A Nebraska senator filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters whether to allow medical cannabis in a November ballot measure.

A bicameral group of Tennessee lawmakers introduced medical cannabis legislation.

Iowa’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to lower penalties for first-time marijuana offenders.

Some Missouri Republican lawmakers want to pre-empt potential medical cannabis ballot measures by passing legislation on the topic.

Colorado regulators released a report finding that more people are now informed about the health effects of marijuana than before the start of a public education campaign funded by legalization tax revenue.

The Florida Supreme Court disbarred a lawyer for telling clients they could  possess, use and grow medical cannabis — more than two years before voters approved such a system.

/ LOCAL

The Savannah, Georgia City Council discussed a marijuana decriminalization proposal.

/ ADVOCACY

The National Governors Association released recommendations on responding to opioid issues. One part of the document read:

  • “The rise in the number of people with substance use disorders, together with the decriminalization, medical use, and legalization of marijuana has caused a corresponding increase in the number of drivers under the influence of controlled substances and motor vehicle fatalities. Without an effective way to test for the presence of these drugs, the risk to the motoring public is substantial and growing.”

Marijuana Business Daily takes a look at internal disputes at the National Cannabis Industry Association.

The Vermont Medical Society and American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter urged Gov. Phil Scott (R) not to sign marijuana legalization into law.

/ BUSINESS

Eaze released a report detailing cannabis consumer trends based on data from its 350,000 users and 15,000 survey respondents.

Franwell’s Metrc was chosen as Massachusetts’s seed-to-sale marijuana tracking system.CNN looks at the marijuana industry’s banking and tax woes.

A study examined cannabis consumers’ use of various social media platforms.

Bloomberg takes a look at how Canadian marijuana companies are preparing to deal with restrictions on advertising and branding under legalization.

/ CULTURE     

Former NBA player Al Harrington wrote a lengthy post on why he supports marijuana law reform.

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GOP congressman says “merchants of addiction” push cannabis (Newsletter: Jan. 18, 2018)

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V.A. sec. clarifies cannabis research comments; KY GOP senator files legalization bill; MD racial disparity study

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/ TOP THINGS TO KNOW

During a debate on an amendment to protect state marijuana laws from federal interference, U.S. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) said, “Marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way. They make it for addiction.”

The Kentucky Senate’s Republican caucus chair introduced a bill to legalize marijuana. Meanwhile, Gov. Matt Bevin (R) says he’s open to medical cannabis but not recreational legalization.

/ FEDERAL

U.S. Veterans Affairs Sec. David Shulkin clarified that his department can do research on medical cannabis but faces restrictions in doing so. (1:56:50 into the video.)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly blocking sentencing reform from becoming part of the White House’s agenda.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 18 cosponsors  introduced a bill to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and withhold funding from states with racial disparities in cannabis enforcement. She, along with Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), discussed the bill on Facebook Live.

Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) and three cosponsors introduced a bill to restrict civil asset forfeiture funds from being used for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication / Suppression Program.

Thirty-one U.S. House members sent a letter urging the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to maintain existing guidance on the marijuana industry’s access to banking services.

Ten Democratic U.S. senators sent a letter to President Trump criticizing the fact that he hasn’t appointed leaders for the Drug Enforcement Administration or Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Four U.S. House members delivered successive floor speeches condemning federal interference with state marijuana laws.

Earlier in the day, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) delivered a House floor speech criticizing Sessions’s anti-marijuana move.

As did Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

Connecticut’s U.S. attorney said he would “continue to prosecute violations of federal law consistent with priorities established by the Justice Department and our office.”

While the Massachusetts U.S. attorney issued a marijuana enforcement statement that concerned many in the industry, people who know him say he is unlikely to crack down.

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Congressman Jason Lewis (R-MN) spoke about federal intervention in state marijuana policies in a joint appearance on C-SPAN.

Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) is criticizing the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs for blocking medical cannabis research.

The U.S. Senate comprehensive medical cannabis bill got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to nine.

The U.S. House bill to deschedule marijuana got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to 25.

The U.S. House bill to exempt state-legal marijuana activity from the Controlled Substances Act got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to 40.

The U.S. House bill to allow marijuana businesses to access banks got six new cosponsors, bringing the total to 64.

The U.S. House bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol got one new cosponsor, bringing the total to 23.

/ STATES

At least half a dozen New Jersey Democratic senators are opposed to marijuana legalization, putting its passage in serious jeopardy.

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidates discussed marijuana legalization at a forum.

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich, a former congressman, said he would protect “Ohio’s right to dispense medical marijuana” from federal interference.

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Flynn said he supports legalizing marijuana and would pardon everyone with low-level cannabis convictions.

A study requested by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) recommended “the use of race- and gender-based measures to remediate discrimination affecting minority- and women-owned businesses in the types of industries relevant to the medical cannabis business.”

Colorado’s attorney general spoke about her efforts to defend the state’s marijuana laws from federal interference.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) discussed his proposal for the state to study legalizing marijuana. Separately, an assemblymember introduced a bill to add opioid use disorder as a medical cannabis qualifying condition.

Rhode Island’s marijuana legalization study commission heard from Massachusetts officials.

The Florida Senate Health Committee approved a bill to repeal a requirement that a medical cannabis cultivation license be issued to a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association.

West Virginia lawmakers filed legislation to allow the smoking of medical cannabis.

Michigan representatives introduced a resolution calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to respect the state’s “constitutionally-protected right to regulate medical marihuana at the state level, and if he fails to do so, we call upon the President of the United States to replace him with a successor who will more faithfully fulfill this constitutional duty.”

A Pennsylvania senator is introducing a resolution calling for marijuana to be rescheduled. Separately, regulators issued guidance on medical cannabis testing.

California regulators released a series of videos to help marijuana businesses learn about their tax responsibilities.

Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom (D) disclosed that he sits on the board of a Canadian marijuana company.

/ INTERNATIONAL

The National Assembly for Wales voted to pressure the UK government to allow medical cannabis.

/ ADVOCACY

A poll funded by prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana found that 49% of US. voters support legalization, another 29% support medical cannabis, 5% back decriminalization and 16% support keeping current policy as-is.

/ SCIENCE & HEALTH

A study determined that “cannabis use is associated with reduced incidence of liver disease in alcoholics.”

A study concluded that “new medical cannabis legislation might reduce the need for opioid analgesics for pain management, which could help to address adverse events associated with opioid analgesic use.”

A study found that “while individuals who use cannabis or cigarettes during adolescence have an increased risk of subsequent psychotic experiences, epidemiological evidence is substantively more robust for cannabis use than it is for tobacco use.”

/ BUSINESS

Pennsylvania’s first medical cannabis dispensary opened.

/ CULTURE     

Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs spoke about his thoughts on marijuana legalization.MMA fighter Cynthia Calvillo tested positive for marijuana metabolites.

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