Category Archives: Marijuana Law

First Church of Cannabis: A “Higher” Calling

first-church-of-cannabis

The first church dedicated to worshiping the social aspect of marijuana use has been launched in Indiana known officially as, “The First Church of Cannabis”. Bill Levin, the church’s founder, insists that the church is not dedicated to worshiping marijuana itself, but the interpersonal connections that are created when the drug is used.

Levin said that the church does not distribute marijuana, however it allows members of the church to smoke inside the location. The church currently does not have a building but is raising funds to open one in the near future. The First Church of Cannabis was created on March 26 after the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in Indiana.

The church was recently approved for tax-exempt status

Levin recently celebrated the church’s approval by the IRS for 501c3 status. The status designates the church as a non-profit organization with the same tax status that traditional churches and places of worship receive.

The approval will allow Levin to obtain donations without federal tax liabilities and he posted his excitement at the news on his church’s Facebook page on May 26th saying, “Our NOT FOR PROFIT 501 C3 status came in today… WE ARE 100 % a LEGAL CHURCH… All say HALLELUJAH and SMILE REAL BIG!”

Marijuana remains illegal in Indiana

Although the recreational and medical use of marijuana in the state of Indiana is not legal, the appreciation of the drug is. Levin does not believe that he will get into trouble because he is not selling the drug. He recently set up a Go Fund Me page which has received over $15,000 in donations from around the world. He has also received numerous donations from local donors and marijuana enthusiasts.

Levin said that he founded to church in order to test the limits of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the same act that triggered protests from gay rights groups because of the fear that it would allow businesses to discrimination against homosexuals.

The church is about treating people with kindness

Levin mentioned that the church does not have any spiritual practices, and that it focuses on treating people with kindness and follows some of the basic tenets of other major religions in the world. He said that old scriptures have nothing to do with the church and that he is not affiliated with the Rastafarians, who embrace marijuana usage as a part of their spiritual practices. Levin did mention that he has learned from the religion and that he “borrowed a bit from every religion.”

The first service is planned on July 1st, 2015 once the law goes into effect at a location that has not yet been announced.

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Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot – November 2014

legalize marijuana 2014November 2012 was an exciting time for marijuana supporters when Colorado and Washington made history by being the first states to legalize the use and sale of recreational cannabis. As a result, these states have witnessed a staggering transformation to their economies and culture largely due to the rapid growth and prosperity of the marijuana industry.

This November, marijuana supporters will once again get to vote for marijuana legalization. But this time Oregon, Alaska, Washington D.C. and Florida are on the ballot.

Oregon – Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Beginning with the decriminalization of weed in 1973, Oregon has historically had some of the most progressive marijuana laws in the United States. And the time has come again for Oregonians to make one of the biggest decision yet on the legality of marijuana.

oregon_arrestsMeasure 91 will be on the ballot this November, and if passed, will legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over. According to a recent poll, 52% of the population of Oregon supports the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Proponents of marijuana legalization believe that allowing the use of recreational marijuana in Oregon would mean less arrests for petty drug use. Even though marijuana is “decriminalized” in Oregon, there are still at least 12,000 arrests and citations for marijuana each year.

If Measure 91 passes, this could mean millions of dollars in tax revenue which would go to school funding, drug treatment prevention, mental health programs and state and local police. Annual tax revenue is estimated at $16 – $40 million annually.

Alaska: Marijuana Legalization

Alaskans are not newbies when it comes to marijuana. In fact, private use of marijuana has been legal in Charlo_GreeneAlaska for nearly 40 years. And, according to a survey, 18% of Alaskans smoke marijuana but lack legal access to it.

This November Alaskans will be voting on Measure 2. If the measure passes it would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot and maintain six marijuana plants. The measure would also legalize productions and sales, which would be regulated by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Support for Measure 2 is currently only around 50%. So whether this measure passes, really depends which side has a stronger campaign. Voter turnout will also be a major factor. If you need some motivation look to Alaska’s biggest advocate, Charlo Greene. The former news reporter that quit her job on live TV while doing a story on the on her own medical marijuana business, the Alaska Cannabis Club.

Washington, DC: Legalization of Marijuana for Personal Use

Our nation’s capital will get to vote on Initiative 71 this November. If it passes, adult citizens, 21 and older, would be allowed to possess up to two ounce of marijuana for personal use, as well as up to six cannabis plants, with a maximum of three mature flowering plants. Initiative 71 would also allow up to an ounce of marijuana to be transferred from one person to another without payment.

Initiative 71, which is currently supported by 65% of the population, is expected to win the majority vote. But that’ll only be the first hurdle. Unlike other states where majority vote wins, every bill passed in the District of Columbia requires the approval of Congress before it can be a law.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Legalization

This year Florida will vote on legalizing marijuana to treat “debilitating medical conditions”, such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and parkinson’s disease. Amendment 2 would require a doctor’s approval before medical marijuana patients could use or possess weed.

Supporters of Amendment 2 will be fighting an uphill battle. For one, 60 percent of voter approval is required, and polls are showing only 48 percent approval so far. Also, marijuana supporters are facing well-funded conservative opposition. A strong voter turnout of marijuana supporters would be needed to rock this vote.

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Commissioner States That NFL Could Legalize Medical Marijuana

NFL marijuana

We all know that the National Football League (NFL) has banned numerous players for the use of marijuana due to the league’s strict substance ban and abuse policy.  But this may no longer be the case in the near future.  The head commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell has opened up to the Associated Press about his stance on the NFL and marijuana use since the successful legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado at the beginning of this year.  According to ESPN reports, commissioner Goodell stated that he could envision a time when players could turn to marijuana to treat pain in states where medical marijuana has already been legalized:  “I don’t know what’s going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries, but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine.”

The major setback from this issue being pushed faster is the league’s 10 year collective bargaining agreement.  Marijuana remains a prohibited drug under the NFL’s substance abuse policy and this agreement was last set in place in 2011 and isn’t set to expire until 2021.  The loophole pointed out by Rt.com shows that the CBA only bans the “illegal use of marijuana, meaning a potential gray area exists concerning situations and states where legal and medical marijuana is permitted.”

In a sport where players are beat and battered week after week with pain, the NFL would be a prime example for the sports world in which medical cannabis could properly be used and regulated for the benefit of the players and sports as a whole.  What do you think?

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Governor of New York Changes Stance To Loosen Marijuana Laws

governor cuomo marijuana new york

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has long been known for his hard stance  against legalizing marijuana of any kind in New York.  This change of position comes a shock to many but digging deeper into his political history, we can see that Gov. Cuomo lead the charge in the legalization of same-sex marriages in New York in 2011.  Gov. Cuomo has made major moves in the past few years in the area of social policy in an effort to bolster his popularity with the voting public.  Because of Gov. Cuomo, gay marriage is now legal in New York and gun laws in the state are one of the nation’s toughest.  Although he has began spearheading abortion rights in his state, that effort has not achieved the success of his other campaigns that have most recently put him in the glowing spotlight of public approval.

Although New York is not going to be competing in the liberal likes of Colorado or California, this shift in legislation allowing those with serious illness have access to medical marijuana is a huge leap for the state of New York where possession and distribution of drugs carry some of the heaviest penalties in the nation.  The legislation proposed will allow 20 hospitals in the state to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with cancer, glaucoma, and other diseases that meet the standards set by the New York State Department of Health.

Moves like this are big in cannabis legalization efforts because it gives the public a chance to understand that when all efforts to treat medical illnesses are exhausted, medical marijuana can be used positively.  When you have highly populated states such as California and New York setting examples of effective regulation, others will follow in due time.  It’s hard to say if Colorado had any affect on Gov. Cuomo’s new plans to offer medical cannabis, but one thing is for sure, he’s not afraid to tackle big issues and go with what he thinks is right.  Keep on advocating Gov. Cuomo, we’re all behind you

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A No-Frills Guide To Buying Weed In Colorado

how to buy marijuana in colorado

The great state of Colorado opened it’s doors to Marijuana use on January 1st , 2014 (aka Green Wednesday).  The marijuana dispensary doors are now officially open for business and you want to get in on the action, here’s a few things you should know without having to read the Colorado marijuana use laws.

Who Can Buy Marijuana For Recreational Use?  Colorado’s age requirement to buy Marijuana is anyone that is 21 and older with a valid government issued ID.  As long as you are of age, you can legally purchase, possess, and smoke Marijuana in the state.  Colorado also has what I call a “sharing is caring” clause.  You can share your weed with anyone else who is 21 years or older as long there is no exchange of Marijuana for money.

I’m Not From Colorado, Can I Still Buy Marijuana?  The same laws apply to all United States citizens as stated above.  As long as your over 21 years of age with valid ID, you can cruise into a licensed retail shop and buy up to 1/4 ounce (out-of-state limitation)

What If I’m Not 21 Years Old But Over 18?  Great news for those over 18 years old but under 21, you can still buy Marijuana as long as you have a medical marijuana card.  Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000 but has now dropped the annual registration fee for the medical marijuana card to only $15 per year!

OK, I’m Finally In Colorado, Where Can I Buy Weed?  There have been 136 retail marijuana shop licenses issued throughout Colorado but MOST of these are in Denver.  But if you somehow find yourself in Summit County, there are four shops there as well.

How Much Marijuana Can I Buy?  If your a Colorado resident, you can buy up to 1 ounce of weed (equivalent to 60 normal sized joints) and out-of-state visitors can buy 1/4 ounce of weed at one time (equivalent to 15 normal sized joints).  That’s still alot of joints so there is nothing to worry about with this limitation.

Lastly, How Much Money Should I Prepare?  Your typical purchase of an eighth of an ounce will run anywhere between $25 to $45 with taxes on top.  The state tax is set at 25% and a very nice 5% city/county tax assessed in most places.

I Didn’t Smoke All My Weed, Can I Take It Back Home For My Family And Friends?  No.  Although you bought it legally, it is still illegal to take it with you across state lines.  It can even be tricky to transporting weed from city to city within Colorado because each city  and county have set their own individual marijuana laws.

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Behind Colorado’s Legalization Of Marijuana: Understand Amendment 64 In 1 Minute

colorado amendment 64

Colorado Amendment 64 was passed by an overwhelming majority on November 6, 2012. This amendment allows personal use of marijuana for adults 21 and over and allows for the growing, manufacturing and sale of marijuana. Fast forward one year, these same voters passed a 2013 state ballot measure imposing sales taxes on recreational marijuana making it one of the most heavily taxed product in the state. The tax would impose a 15% excise tax and an initial 10% sales tax not counting any local taxes that are placed. So what is the deal? Why first pass legislation that legalizes marijuana and then in turn place heavy taxes on that same product?

The answer is always money. The voters simply didn’t want to pass Colorado Amendment 64 to simply legalize pot so people can freely use it recreationally. The voters wanted a cut of revenue for the sale of marijuana. Marijuana, although previously illegal, was already easily accessible. So why not cash in? Proponents of the 2013 tax measure hope to bring in an additional $67 million a year in revenue for schools, road repairs and regulation of marijuana sales. Moreover, politicians in the state hope to make Colorado one of the front runners in successfully implementing the legalization and regulation of pot. This legislation was passed before the first recreational pot stores are scheduled to open beginning January 1, 2014. Some coincidence? I think not. More than likely this is the result of a master plan in countering Colorado’s hobbled economic growth.

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California Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Disappearing in 2013

dispensary raid cartoon

California had legalized medical marijuana close to 17 years ago and yet we still seem to see problems arising between dispensary owners and the government.  To be clear, the Federal government is to blame for these shrinking numbers we are seeing from San Francisco all the way down to San Diego.  The dispensaries being shut down are all businesses who have been a victim of random raids carried out by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, or better known as the DEA.  Since the “Cole Memo” written by Assistant Attorney General James Cole in the summer of 2011, dispensaries have been under attack by the government with no end in sight.  As StopTheDrugWar.org has put it, the Cole memo along with California’s four US Attorneys declared “open season on dispensaries.”

Due to this announcements, city officials have taken independent action on localized legislation.  Los Angeles had well over 500 dispensaries prior to 2010 and that number is planned to be reduced to 135 in 2013.  Another big hit taken was Anaheim which had over 143 dispensaries in 2007, now down to 11 dispensaries in 2013.  Those last 11 were ordered to be shut down by the end of the year.  Other major cities across California has followed suit such as San Bernardino, Riverside County, Bakersfield, Palm Springs, Thousand Palms, Santa Ana, and Stockton.  These cases are not just a regulatory move to restrict the number of dispensaries open, but rather moving toward a full ban on the medical marijuana dispensary industry as a whole.

If cities were so afraid of the collectives setting up shop all around the city, they should take a page from Palm Spring’s zoning strategy allowing a certain number of collectives to operate in a certain area, thereby allowing safe access to those who need medical marijuana than to outright ban and shut down all currently operating collectives.

All this trouble marijuana users and distributors can all be traced back to a single Supreme Court decision in the case of City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center handed down in May of 2013.  The Supreme Court Justices unanimously ruled that that localities could use their zoning powers to ban dispensaries in addition to regulate them.  This decision gave the green light for major cities to start making moves on all collectives under its own power, and those that pose more problems to shut down are handed over to the DEA to deal with.

What does this all mean for the future of California collectives?  From the time this article was written, no dispensary owner is safe from their own city nor the federal government.  Although this report may seem grim, not all hope has been lost, yet.  The Cannabis and Hemp Freedom Act of 2014 has published by SaveCannabis.org as an open source grassroots effort with hundreds of California advocates behind this legislation.  The objective for this is for this legislation to be completed in time to make it onto the 2014 ballot.  As an open source document, suggestions and edits can be provided by you, as an advocate, through their website.

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