States Respond to Trump’s Impending War on Legal Weed

Officials in Washington State are vowing to fight any federal crackdown on the state’s successful cannabis industry after White House press secretary Sean Spicer strongly implied that the Trump administration may crack down on states with legal recreational marijuana.

“We will resist any efforts to thwart the will of the voters in Washington,” said the state’s attorney general Bob Ferguson in an interview with the Seattle Times.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and AG Ferguson sent a letter last week to U.S. attorney general and outspoken pot-hater Jeff Sessions, asking to meet and discuss the issue.

“Our state’s efforts to regulate the sale of marijuana are succeeding,” they wrote in the letter, which was released Thursday. “A few years ago, the illegal trafficking of marijuana lined the pockets of criminals everywhere. Now, in our state, illegal trafficking activity is being displaced by a closely regulated marijuana industry that pays hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. This frees up significant law enforcement resources to protect our communities in other, more pressing ways.”

It is worth noting that Washington State’s recreational marijuana sales exceeded the $1.1 billion mark with sales tax revenue reaching $410 million in 2016.

This is not a fight Donald Trump and his administration should pick, Inslee said earlier this month. “They would be on the wrong side of history.”

Ferguson said his lawyers are already “quite prepared” to argue against a federal crackdown but will begin reviewing strategies now that Spicer has sent the administration’s first signals about recreational marijuana.

“When he talks about ‘greater enforcement,’ I take that seriously,” said Ferguson, whose legal team twice prevailed over the president’s lawyers in federal court when they halted Trump’s racist travel ban.

In his comments on Thursday, Spicer said Trump does not oppose medical marijuana, but “that’s very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

This focus on legal recreational weed seems to be a departure from Trump’s previous statements in favor of states’ rights. But following that logic would imply that the White House is following a consistent policy.

Spicer’s comments came on the same day as a Quinnipiac poll noted that 59 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal and 71 percent would oppose a federal crackdown.

In Pueblo, Colorado, reported the Associated Press, legal marijuana has helped fund college scholarships, parks, jail improvements and school drug prevention programs, said County Commissioner Sal Pace.

“Most Americans agree on this issue; let the states decide,” Pace said.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, from Oregon weighed in: “I am deeply disappointed by Sean Spicer’s statement that he expects states to see ‘greater enforcement’ and crackdown on adult use of marijuana. The national prohibition of cannabis has been a failure, and millions of voters across the country have demanded a more sensible approach. I’m looking forward to working with the leadership of our newly formed cannabis caucus to ensure that Oregonian’s wishes are protected and that we end the failed prohibition on marijuana.”

In Nevada, which recently legalized recreational pot, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said in a statement Thursday that meddling in recreational pot laws would be federal overreach and harm state coffers that fund education.

“Any action by the Trump administration would be an insult to Nevada voters and would pick the pockets of Nevada’s students,” said Ford.

So, friends, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and defend the hard-fought gains of this movement.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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Radical Rant: I Told You So

Yesterday, Melissa McCarthy’s greatest comedy role, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, stepped up to the podium and delivered the remarks I’ve been predicting for nine months now.

“There is a big difference between [medical] and recreational marijuana,” said Spicer. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by… when it comes to recreational marijuana.”

Spicer indicated that the president “understands the pain and suffering that many people go through” and is sympathetic to medical marijuana.” However, “That’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice I think will be further looking into.”

Spicer did recognize the power of the Rohrabacher Amendment passed by Congress that prevents the Justice Department from prosecuting states over medical marijuana, a sliver of hope for reformers that if Congress can pass HR975, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, that would tie Sessions’ hands regarding recreational marijuana, too.

All it needs is for Oregon’s lone Republican representative, Greg Walden, to bring it up for a hearing in the Energy & Commerce Committee he chairs, where the bill has been referred. The same Walden supported the keep-hands-off-medical-marijuana Rohrabacher Amendment of 2015, but voted against the McClintock Amendment of 2015 that would have kept-hands-off-recreational-marijuana-too.

If by some miracle, Walden calls a vote on HR975 and the GOP majority passes it out of committee, it then heads to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Virginia’s Rep. Bob Goodlatte. The same Goodlatte who believes this:

“Marijuana is a dangerous substance that has many more drawbacks then benefits that some people derive from… They have never found any use for marijuana that was better than already approved for prescription drugs… The evidence regarding the effect that it has, particularly on young people is concerning. It is not my purpose to change the law with regard to marijuana. I have not signed off on the idea that the best way to deal with these issues would be to change the categorization of marijuana.”

So, just get HR975 through two hostile committee chairmen, onto the floor of the House to be voted on by a GOP-majority Congress, then over to the Senate for another couple of hostile committees and then a floor vote by a GOP-majority Senate, then to the desk of President “the crime, the gangs and the drugs, this American carnage stops right here and stops right now” Trump to sign into law—and then, recreational marijuana laws are safe from Attorney General Jeff “good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions.

Forgive me if I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, what was it Sean Spicer was saying again?

“The Department of Justice is the lead on that. It is something that you should follow up with them, but I believe that they are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.”

I hate to say I told you so, but…

I told you so: “So, yeah, you could cast a feel-good vote for Johnson or Stein because they agree with you on legalizing marijuana, but to what end? They’ll have zero power over legalization policy, and you’ll be doing nothing to stop the candidate who would dismantle legalization, Donald Trump.”

I told you so: “While Donald Trump has recently said he’s fine with state-level legalization and medical marijuana, he’s also recently said, ‘In this race for the White House, I am the law-and-order candidate.’”

I told you so: “The Republican nominee is probably the worst of the four candidates on this issue.”

I told you so: “But Trump is for states’ rights, right? Sure he is—at least as much as you can say Donald Trump has a political philosophy. However, I can imagine a whole bunch of federal interference that would still allow states their right to legalize weed.”

I told you so: “With the election of Donald Trump as president, it seems clearer each day that the cannabis industry and the marijuana movement may be facing down some tough times ahead.”

I told you so: “I’ll be thrilled to be wrong if the status quo continues, the marijuana industry grows and nobody gets raided or jailed. But I have always believed this isn’t a War on Drugs, this is a war on culture, and the other side of that culture war is in complete control.”

I told you so: “I think the man who said, ‘I believe the Department of Justice needs to be clear… I think it’s really serious’ back in April is more believable than the same man polishing his résumé for a job promotion. The confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general will be a nightmare for the marijuana industry.”

Previously in Radical Rant: My Testimony on Protecting Cannabis Users’ Employment Rights
Click here for all of Russ Belville’s columns

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Cannabis Thrives on Both Sides of Divided Kashmir

The disputed region of Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1949, has made scary headlines in recent months.

Pro-independence militants are stepping up attacks on the India-controlled side, and the region is a potential flashpoint for war between the nuclear-armed South Asian giants.

But it hardly comes as a surprise that a cannabis economy thrives on both sides of the Line of Control—despite the best efforts to suppress it by both Indian and Pakistani security forces.

The Indian Police Service last week announced the arrest of Kashmir’s most-wanted charas smuggler at a checkpoint in the Tangmarg district, in the north of the India-controlled territory. The trafficker was named as Abdul Rehman Dar, but there is no reason to expect his fall to interrupt the illicit industry.

The region’s conservative Islamic press runs editorials scandalized by long-entrenched cultivation of bhang (cannabis) to produce charas (hashish), as well as khash-khash (opium poppy).

Pakistani authorities are meanwhile pursuing their own vigorous crackdown on cannabis, and last month boasted of busts across the coubtry.

Among the boasted hauls was a kilogram of hash, seized by agents of the national Anti Narcotics Force from a “drug peddler” in Gilgit. This is the Himalayan mountain fastness that Pakistan has administratively separated from Kashmir—a move long protested by India. A new international oil pipeline linking China and Iran is now planned to cross Gilgit on its way through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

So… A thriving drug trade, long-standing local tensions and international oil intrigues. All the makings of Asia’s next insurgency quagmire. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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Psychedelicatessen: Marijuana Maple Glazed Carrots

Celebrate the best of spring with tender carrots glazed in cannabutter, maple syrup and herbs.

Dissatisfied with a corporate career trajectory, Chris Yang abandoned an almost completed Masters degree in hospital management and decided to become a cannabis cook. Spending days marinating in marijuana and watching YouTube cooking videos, Yang taught himself basic techniques by watching Gordon Ramsay and built a significant Instagram following. Catering private parties for influential bloggers led to a new project called Pop Cultivate, a monthly series of infused dinners held at Container Yard in downtown Los Angeles, featuring the best in seasonal cuisine.

Yang came to compete at the first-ever “Taste of Cannabis” competition held in San Bernardino last October as part of the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup. Sponsored by Magical Butter, the contest aimed to showcase the skills of the burgeoning number of chefs who specialize in cannabis cuisine.

The challenge involved going up against another chef and creating a dish inspired by a randomly selected regional cuisine, and Yang wowed the judges with his creations. Winning the competition with an inventive take on chicken and waffles, Yang credits cannabis with inspiring him to follow his true passion in life.

Chris Yang mixing it up at a Pop Cultivate dinner event.

Chris Yang mixing it up at a Pop Cultivate dinner event.

Learning to cook for yourself is one of the most rewarding skills to have throughout life, connecting you to the rhythms of the seasons, the land you live on and the people in your life who gather to share food together.

This recipe from Chris Yang is a simple side dish based on a few fresh ingredients. Maple-glazed carrots could accompany a pot roast or pork chops, and the combination of lemon juice, fresh herbs, maple syrup and cannabutter is downright delicious.

Follow Chris Yang on Instagram at  @popcultivate

CANNACARROTS__0470
Marijuana Maple Glazed Carrots

Ingredients

  • 2 bunch fresh baby carrots
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1⁄4 cup maple syrup
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. cannabutter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves
  • 5-6 sprigs of thyme

Instructions

Wash the carrots whole and give them a good scrubbing (use a new sponge or a kitchen towel).

CANNACARROTS__0473
Melt butter in a large heavy sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add carrots and thyme, cover and braise, stirring occasionally, until carrots are fork-tender, 20–30 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, stir in syrup, add cannabutter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add parsley and mix well. Serve with lemon wedge.

Previous Psychedelicatessen: Ganja Fois Gras Candy BarFor all of HIGH TIMES’ edibles coverage, click here.

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Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Make Drug Possession Felonies Again

Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration rate in the United States. As usual, nonviolent drug offenses are a large reason why.

Turns out, voters in the deep-red, Trump-loving state are as sick of the drug war as effete coastal liberals. On Election Day, when other states were legalizing marijuana, Oklahomans overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that reclassified nonviolent drug possession as a misdemeanor crime rather than a felony.

With 26.3 percent of the state’s prison inmates doing time for drugs, and another 23.3 percent in prison for nonviolent offenses of all kinds, Oklahoma’s drug problem was obvious, so State Question 780 was approved with 58.23 percent in support versus 41.77 percent against.

One of the felony crimes reduced to a misdemeanor was possession of drugs within 1,000 feet of a school. As a misdemeanor, that transgression still carries a penalty of up to a year in jail. But that’s not good enough for state lawmakers, who have enlisted some school superintendents in pushing to reopen that school-to-prison pipeline by making penalties for victimless crimes great yet again.

State Sen. Ralph Shortey’s SB 512 would roll back almost all of the drug-policy reforms voters just approved.

Simple possession of any drug aside from marijuana would become a felony again, as would a second offense involving marijuana—and possession of any drug within 1,000 feet of a school could be punished with a state prison term, according to KFOR-4. If that goes too far—and it does—a similar bill, the “Keep Oklahoma Children Safe From Illegal Drugs Act,” would merely reinstate the 1,000-foot felony zone around schools for simple drug possession.

A thousand feet is about three city blocks. So if you’re caught with weed in your pocket at night or on the weekend, and—surprise!—there’s a school a few blocks away, well out of sight and certainly out of session, you could go to prison.

The law also includes felony punishment for possessing drugs in the mere presence of a child under 12 years old. Think of all the situations in which someone could have drugs on them in the presence of a child, and then think about going to prison. In fact, you would be guaranteed prison: A first offense carries a maximum penalty of five years, with the provision that at least 50 percent of it must be served.

This is exactly the kind of punitive measures Oklahoma voters just voted down.

Rep. Scott Biggs, the Republican behind the school zone push, justified undoing what the voters just did with the offensive and patronizing line being used by lawmakers in other states: The voters were too stupid to realize what they actually voted for.

Here’s what he had to say in a KFOR interview:

After hearing from my constituents after the election, I believe there is a large group of voters that didn’t understand that this state question would essentially decriminalize drugs in schools, parks and playgrounds,” said Biggs. “I’m all for cleaning up our books to have a more efficient justice system but not at the expense of our children.”

Keep in mind that drug sales is still a felony—and also note that a misdemeanor penalty is not decriminalization. In fact, in no way or form does a misdemeanor crime qualify as decriminalization—it still involves an arrest, a prosecution, a court date and potential jail time.

Either Biggs is high, or he has no idea what law he just introduced.

It would take a staggering misunderstanding of the situation to support such a swift return to the bad old days. And horrifyingly, school superintendents, whose job is to impart the ability to think upon young minds, are on board.

Mike Martin is superintendent of public schools in the community of Paul Valley. Earlier this year, one of his schools went on lockdown “due to a [sic] drug bust in that neighborhood,” as he told the Miami (Okla.) News Record. That’s only the beginning. Unless this law that has barely had time to take force is repealed and replaced with something far more punitive—well, take it away, Mike.

Drug dealers know schools are off -limits and carry greater penalties,” he told the News-Record. “Without this provision, drug dealers could set up shop and openly recruit our most vulnerable, our children.”

“We must protect the children entrusted to our care,” he added. “We must keep our schools drug free.”

For the record, Oklahoma teens’ rates of drinking, smoking tobacco and marijuana use are similar to the national average—but like elsewhere in Trump country, the state’s teens are using prescription pain medication at a higher rate. Meanwhile, about half of the nation’s 1.5 million prison inmates are parents, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

So the drugs-in-schools bus has long left the station. But yes, the drug war keeps children safe—from their parents.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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Trump’s War on Weed Will Boost Big Pharma, Private Prisons and Mexican Drug Cartels

In a press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration believes there’s “a big difference” between medical and recreational marijuana. He noted that while medical cannabis laws are nominally protected by Congress (which in 2004 banned the Feds from spending money to interfere with state laws), recreational cannabis enjoys no such federal protection. And so he pointed to a coming crackdown, saying there will be “greater enforcement” of federal cannabis prohibition in states that have voted to legalize.

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people [to use marijuana recreationally]…” Spicer told the press, “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it.”

This rationale, however, flies in the face of multiple studies showing definitively that the supposed gateway theory—which claims marijuana leads to use of harder drugs—is, basically, bullshit, and that legal access to cannabis actually greatly reduces opioid addiction rates.

A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” While a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found opioid overdose rates are 25% lower in states with legal cannabis access, and “such laws were associated with a lower rate of overdose mortality that generally strengthened over time.” Other studies have reached the same conclusion—that cannabis laws can actually play a huge role in combating the opioid crisis in America by providing a far safer alternative to heroin and prescription drugs like Oxycontin.

So we are left with two—and only two—distinct possibilities:

    1) The Trump Administration, led by rabidly anti-marijuana politicians like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, plans to crack down on legal cannabis, overriding the votes of millions of Americans and deepening the very serious problem of opioid abuse, because they don’t understand basic facts about marijuana.

    2) The Trump Administration understands these facts, and will crack down on legal weed anyway.

So where does that leave the President’s many supporters who also support legal cannabis? A new Quinnipiac poll released on the same day as Spicer’s comments showed 71 percent of all Americans—and 55% of Republicans—oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. Many Trump voters also voted for cannabis legalization in November. And the President’s support is actually highest in the communities (largely white, rural and poor) that have been hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.

But why would Trump and his team enact a policy that will hurt his own supporters?

When investigating a crime, detectives typically begin by asking Cui bono?—a latin phrase that translates as Who Benefits? In this case, that’s easy to answer—Big Pharma, private prisons, and Mexican drug cartels. More marijuana enforcement will lead to greater profits for all three.

Tellingly, on the same day as Spicer’s comments, Attorney General Sessions ended an Obama-era policy directing the Justice Department to phase out the use of private prisons. Private prisons, which profit off the War on Weed, have been huge donors to pro-Trump groups, and two of Sessions’s former aides now lobby for the private prison industry.

The pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, which spends billions on lobbying and has close ties to Trump, sees legal cannabis as a huge threat to their bottom line, as Americans increasingly choose cannabis over prescription pills. So they’re all for cracking down, with the added benefit that having the government focus on marijuana enforcement as the answer to opioid addiction protects Big Pharma from scrutiny of their own role in getting the nation hooked on dangerous, addictive, often deadly pills.

And finally, this is all great news for the Mexican drug cartels, which have been steadily losing their share of the American marijuana market since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize in 2012. Any decrease in legal US cannabis sales will benefit them directly by pushing those sales back into the black market, thus making for more violence and drug-running coming into the United States and providing a rationale for Trump’s larger anti-immigration policies.

So, to sum up, if you smoke weed, and you voted Trump, it’s pretty clear that your best interests take a back seat to the profit motives of prescription pill pushers, private prisons and criminal gangs from South of the Border. Which might further help explain how a candidate who railed against Wall Street turned into a President who just put six former Goldman Sachs executives in charge of the economy….

Follow the money, ask who benefits, and from there, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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